Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Film, Cinema, Law, People, Literature, Actors, Direction, Theater

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/16

Prisoners (2013) is a film that explores issues surrounding abduction and how people react in situations where they feel helpless without anyone to blame. It tells the story of Detective David Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who is investigating the disappearance of two young girls, from two separate families. A man with mental disabilities, Alex Jones (played by Paul Dano) appears to fit the bill for the abductor perfectly – but Loki cannot find any hard evidence. Both Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and Franklin (Terrence Howard), the father of the respective girls, are convinced that the man is responsible and is frustrated by the police’s lack of action.
The main ethical dilemma that is explored here is how people react when they feel like the law is not working for them. Dover is enraged by the police’s reluctance to arrest Alex Jones and, fuelled by this belief, takes the law into his own hands and imprisons the man at an abandoned site until he gives up the location of the girls – torturing him to try and extract this information. Franklin is clearly very uncomfortable about this and it is Dover who takes the lead in events, with Franklin reluctantly agreeing out of desperation at wanting to get his daughter back.
The film is paced in such a way that it makes this mental and physical very clear. The first third or so of Prisoners is very deliberately paced and almost reserved. It has the feeling of a police procedural as Loki tries to figure out exactly what has happened here. However, once Keller decides to take the law into his own hands the tone very much changes. It is here when Prisoners really starts to become challenging morally. Keller is absolutely brutal in his treatment of Alex Jones and the scenes where he tortures him are very difficult to watch.
This raises a number of interesting questions – does this man even deserve it? In the world of Keller Dover, he does. The man is desperate to get his child back and that and justifies the means, no matter how brutal they are. However, we have no evidence that Jones has actually committed these crimes and even if he did he is clearly severely disabled mentally. In such cases, does a man with this condition deserve to be treated so violently? Similarly, the law is there to protect everyone and this has been done for a reason. Just because someone may be guilty of a crime does not make vigilantism acceptable under any circumstances. It is a very slippery slope and this is a key theme that Prisoners explores.
In his review, M. Faust (Artvoice, 2013) is favorable towards these themes but not impressed at the way Prisoners decides to portray them. He notes that “the performances are powerful but relentlessly one-note: The actors are given one tone to hold to throughout the film. At least Jackman (frustrated rage) and Gyllenhaal (steely determination) get showy notes to work with: Among the other parents, Maria Bello has to go through the film as borderline hysteria, while Terence Howard is stuck with pained impotence. That Dano is good at projecting weakness is not in the viewer’s favor” while also describing the ending as “befuddled”, noting that many of the key questions asked earlier in the movie are left unanswered and it goes off in a wildly different direction.
Conversely, Simon Jones (Screenwize, 2013) is full of praise for it. He was particularly fond of Jake Gyllenhaal’s “sublime” performance and the excellent way that Jackman portrays a man who is desperate to do “something, anything” when his daughter goes missing. Furthermore, he contends that the story is “poetic” and “slow boiling” and does not glamorize anyone in particular. Writer Aaron Guzikowski and director Denis Villeneuve are lauded for not being afraid to show their characters have faults. Both Jones and Faust both strongly praised the cinematography, with Jones stating that “cinematographer Roger Deakins create an ominous mood from the very first shot”.
When evaluating a film such as Prisoners there are a number of key criteria that could be used to evaluate it when it comes to whether or not it should be recommended to the general public. This would include the way it was shot (cinematography), the way it was written, the way it was directed and the performance of the actors within these parameters. As a result, when looking at Prisoners it very much ticks a lot of these boxes in the right way.
The movie was almost universally praised for the way it was shot. The moody, tree-filled town is the perfect location for something like this and the film constantly feels claustrophobic because of this. This is certainly a good thing as it reflects the tone of the story. The scenes where Keller is assaulting Jones are almost nightmarish. They are unflinching and the way the decaying building is shot reflects the mental states of the various characters involved.
The writing is generally very good, falling down only at the end. The dialogue is gritty and realistic, the way people speak to each other and their actions in various situations ring true when you consider their characters and the circumstances they are portrayed as being involved in. The story becomes a bit wild and perhaps unbelievable in the third act but otherwise there is very little to find fault with throughout the rest of the film.
Similarly, the direction is largely excellent. While the film was criticized for a lot of the actors feeling one dimensional, this is perhaps unfair as they are all being shown in a situation where they are being driven by one thing – surely they would be all-consumed by the disappearance of their children and doing something about it. Similarly, Loki’s steely determination to solve the case works in the context of his character. There are many moments of excellent direction, such as when Dover attacks Jones as he is released. Jones, clearly terrified says to Dover that "they didn't cry until I left them." The way in which Dover reacts to this is perfectly captured by the direction and this is a common theme throughout the film. The actors are allowed to subtly and realistically get emotions across when the time is right.
Finally, the acting is absolutely tremendous. The film received numerous awards with Gyllenhaal in particular receiving acclaim for his portrayal of Detective David Loki. He is the appropriate mix of grizzled (as a detective who deals with these sorts of cases) and determined (as someone who is dedicated to their job). Meanwhile, Paul Dano’s performance as Alex Jones is subtle and haunting and Hugh Jackman manages to allow the viewer to sympathize, if not agree with, a character that is clearly morally reprehensible. Overall, Prisoners is an exceptional portrayal of how people react when faced with a very tough situation and the different ways people react to their perception of the law.

Works Cited

Faust, M. "Prisoners." Artvoice RSS. N.p., 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.
Jones, Simon. "Review of PRISONERS." ScreenWize. N.p., 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 16) Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/
"Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay." WePapers, 16 Feb. 2021, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/. Accessed 29 May 2022.
WePapers. 2021. Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay., viewed May 29 2022, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/>
WePapers. Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay. [Internet]. February 2021. [Accessed May 29, 2022]. Available from: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/
"Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay." WePapers, Feb 16, 2021. Accessed May 29, 2022. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/
WePapers. 2021. "Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved May 29, 2022. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/).
"Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 16-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/. [Accessed: 29-May-2022].
Example Of Prisoners: A Review Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/example-of-prisoners-a-review-essay/. Published Feb 16, 2021. Accessed May 29, 2022.

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