Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Prisoners – 2013


The best film of 2013, hands down!

“Prisoners” is by far and away the most gripping, intense and obscure crime/drama/thriller of the past few years and is 2013’s best picture for so many reasons, mainly it’s unpredictability and overall convoluted structure.Set in a gloomy, isolated and snowy Pennsylvania, “Prisoners” is the story of a father and a detective’s struggle to find two abducted girls that pushes the protagonists to their ultimate limits in terms of morality.

Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned the task of finding the missing girls of Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) and soon realises how deep and unnerving an investigation this is. Loki’s attitude is mostly quite reserved and calm, however the stress and anxiety of the mystery overpower him at times as repressed dark memories of his own re-emerge.


Paul Dano is once again brilliant in his supporting role as Alex Jones, the psychologically damaged and socially inadequate initial suspect. His performance stands out as one of the better supporting roles of last year, adding to his incredible repertoire of fantastic films including “Little Miss Sunshine”, “There Will Be Blood”, “12 Years a Slave” and “Looper”.

The attitude towards characters fluctuates throughout “Prisoners” but mostly towards Alex Jones, empathy, sympathy, hatred, frustration and sorrow are all felt for the boy at several points of the film. The way in which this mystery plays out is so smart, especially for the style of the film and the themes it incorporates. Religion seems to play a large part in this film, however it doesn’t get directly mentioned too much; many links have a been made to the film’s Christian symbolism and subtle religious references.

Regarding symbolism and attention to detail, the cinematography of “Prisoners” is simply breathtaking. There is no doubt that cinematographer Roger A. Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Skyfall”, “No country For Old Men” and “The Big Lebowski”) was assigned to “Prisoners” to give it an extra dimension and make the film what it is, marvellous. Every shot is meticulously crafted and perfectly framed in such a way, that there seems to always be a bigger picture the audience never witnesses; wide, establishing shots are rare in “Prisoners”, the widest that springs to mind is the shot of Dover walking into the liquor store as Loki is paying on him. The coldness of the setting and the eeriness and feeling of solitariness generated by the film’s cinematography makes “Prisoners” such an exquisite work of art.


The embodiment of Keller Dover has arguably resulted in the performance of Hugh Jackman’s career. His emotional range is explored time and time again throughout the film, and it is obvious Jackman is giving each shot 120%. The first time Loki and Dover meet is the best piece of acting Jackman has ever produced in a film; the execution of his mumbled, confused dialogue is faultless and astonishingly good. Theres just something about that short moment of the scene which is just so riveting; it needs to  be seen, rather than put into words.The question surrounding Dover is exactly what lengths he will go to in order to save his daughter; how that expands is shocking and captivating.


Jake Gyllenhaal makes a triumphant return to the big screen as Loki, arguably one of the performances of his career as well. His mannerisms, attitude and excessive blinking are perfectly displayed as the audience gradually begins to enter Loki as a person, rather than a detective. His ultra-stressfull existence and limited contact with the outside world make this lonesome detective an enigma of some sorts; there is a mystery is Loki himself. Gyllenhaal’s role in 2012’s “End Of Watch” obviously had an effect on him and gave him an insight into portraying a police officer; his actions, delivery of dialogue and other features of his performance are so believable, you forget it’s Gyllenhaal on the screen.

Nothing is what it seems in “Prisoners”, and that is exactly what is required when creating an intense and gripping drama/mystery such as this. At times, the violence or simply the suspense is enough to have you on the end of your seat, and it may only be 20 minutes in; that’s how engaging “Prisoners” is. The small cast adds to the solitary nature and creepiness of the case, while the town itself gives off an unnerving impression. This is a common trait found in long-weilding mystery/thrillers, and “Prisoners” undoubtedly epitomises this.


How “Prisoners” was not nominated for more Academy Awards is an abomination. Being nominated for ‘Best Screenplay’ and nothing else at this years OSCARS was insulting to this mesmerising piece. Furthermore, losing to “Gravity” (a magnificent film), which is mostly produced on green screens is unfair; “Gravity”s cinematography is artificially created, while “Prisoners” and other nominees’ cinematography was manually and traditionally developed.

Overall the ‘Best Picture of 2013’ award goes to Denis Villenvue’s “Prisoners” and it’s shocking, engaging and intense storyline. The acting is superb, the cinematography is world class and the screenplay demands a lot of praise. A fluctuating piece emotionally and progressively, “Prisoners” is a must-watch and a true timeless modern classic.



One comment on “Prisoners – 2013

  1. Seamus
    April 17, 2014

    I enjoyed the review if this film. Everytime I see a film I think, what woul Billy think of this film. Would he like it, or we would he think it’s bad. I don’t know. That’s why these reviews are goog, cause I can see what he thinks and be like ‘ Fuck that’ if he thinks a movie is bad, or ‘Sounds great’ if he thinks it’s good. One day I’ll get an opinion, but till then I’ll just use Billy’s 🙂

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