Two young girls are snatched right outside their homes and their parents, along with the police, frantically try to find them in the very dramatic and highly suspenseful new film, Prisoners.
The two girls are the daughters of two couples, one white couple, the Dovers (Keller and Grace, played by an amazing Hugh Jackman and Mario Bello), and one black couple, the Birches (Franklin and Nancy, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis). A mysterious R.V. was seen parked in their neighborhood earlier that morning, and the girls were last seen playing outside of their homes on Thanksgiving Day.
Once both families realize the girls are missing, they notify the police and band together to search the surrounding area, including the woods, for them. The police investigation, headed up by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), is quick to find the van and it's driver Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but there is no sign of the two girls. After attempting to run away from Loki, and not doing a good job of it as he smashes his van into a tree, Jones is quickly arrested and held for 48 hours. Jones has child kidnapper written all over his face: he has long hair, with glasses too large for his face, he is extremely introverted, and just very scary-looking, but he is adamant that he had nothing to do with the kidnappings. Keller Dover thinks otherwise. He knows in his gut that Jones is guilty, and once Jones is released after not being charged, Keller gets obsessed and follows him everywhere.
Then one night after he sees Jones trying to strangle a dog near his home, he kidnaps Jones and takes him to a run-down apartment building that Keller's father once owned. Keller ties him up and repeatedly beats him, asking for the whereabouts of the two girls. Franklin Birch reluctantly helps Keller and for a few days both of them continue to beat and torture Jones, but Jones continues to not say anything helpful. In the meantime, at a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki notices a young man acting funny. The man sees that he was noticed, and he drops his candle and runs away. Loki goes after him but loses him. Could this be the guy who kidnapped the girls?
Loki gets just enough information about the guy to find out who he is and where he lives. He is finally captured and taken into police custody, but he grabs Loki's gun in the interrogation room and shoots himself in the mouth. Meanwhile, a search of his house reveals an unusual collection of snakes, and graffiti all over. Is this the end of the investigation?
Meanwhile, Keller continues to be very angry at Loki for not doing enough in the investigation, and blows up after he catches Loki following him. So who kidnapped the two girls? Are they still alive? Why doesn't Loki do more to search for Jones who has been missing for days? As for Jones' aunt whom he lives with, Holly (Melissa Leo), why doesn't she seemed too concerned for Alex's whereabouts? Why did Keller Dover meet detective Loki the day after the girls went missing and not on the night day they went missing? And the one question I really want to know the answer to: Why were the dirty dishes from Thanksgiving still in the kitchen a few days after the girls went missing? Didn't the family have other family members/friends who could've helped with cleanup for the distraught parents?
The problem with Prisoners is that it raises more questions than it answers. There are several plot holes in the film, especially in the last 30 minutes when the resolution of the mystery of the disappearance of the two girls take place. But then more questions come up. Why didn't Alex Jones speak up? What was the Aunt's reasoning behind what she did? Why wasn't Grace Keller upset that her husband went missing? And my question: Why was this film close to two hours and twenty six minutes long? When Prisoners is at its conclusion, it is not really concluded, as there is one major character who is missing and had not been found by the end of the film. Will he be found? We will never know.
The performances in Prisoners are what save it from being a really bad film. Hugh Jackman is incredible as the father of one or the missing girls. The horror on his face when he realizes that they are missing is so real, so emotional, so raw. He is the star of this film, and it won't surprise me if he gets nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. His performance overshadows all other performances in this film and is his best performance ever. Paul Dano is also excellent as the creepy Alex Jones, who seems to be hiding something but won't/can't say what it is. Also his best performance ever.
Viola Davis as Nancy Birch is also very good as the mother who is in pain, longing for her daughter to return, as does Maria Bello as Nancy Birch. All other performances in this film are just okay. Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki gives an under-the-radar performance, not his best role, as does Terence Howard as Franklin Birch, and Melissa Leo as Holly Jones. But fault is found with writer Aaron Guzikowski for his long-winded script, and to director Denis Villeneuve for not realizing that the story he is trying to tell starts becoming unbelievable as the film goes on, and on, and on.