Guest review by Chook.
7 / 10
Prisoners is hard work. Explaining to people why you used to like Limp Bizkit is also hard work, but that’s not the point.
From the 10 minute mark I watched Prisoners as if it were a Miley Cyrus highlight reel, eyes wide open in horror and face turned from the screen in disgust, in equal measure.
I was initially sceptical because the premise of ‘what would you do to get your abducted daughter back’ was so deftly handled by (Sir) Liam Neeson in the timeless work Taken, and to a lesser extent Taken 2. But the only real similarity between Prisoners and Taken is the producers’ admirable dedication to literal and succinct titles; in Prisoners, foes aren’t vanquished by an arthritic man twice their age, and the lack of slimy Russians left me wondering who the baddies were right ‘til the end.
Prisoners tries hard to capture (high five) your senses with a smattering of violence, grief, creepiness and, of course, SNAKES! Jackman and Gylenhaal give pretty good and surprisingly restrained (high five) performances and, as a chilling and tense thriller, Prisoners nails the mark. (Random aside: the prohibition on dilution of a brand is a long settled principle of law so just when will this Government stand up and protect what is ours and stop Hugh Jackman doing anything other than Wolverine movies or Oklahoma on Broadway? Some of us are relying on him to ingrain an image of the typical Australian male in the minds of Eastern European/South American women.)
Anyway, the problem is, Prisoners is another movie trying to scare middleclass family folks into considering just what they’d be willing to do to for their loved ones. “You there! Fatty! (probably). Put your unwooded chardonnay down, swallow that water cracker with hummus and ask yourself, would you be willing to torture or even kill someone, perhaps elaborately, definitely broodingly, to get little Janie back?!”.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, or maybe because Generation Pitchfork pans everything as derivative, but to convincingly and arrestingly ask serious questions and provoke serious responses, those questions must live in the grey world where reasonable people disagree about what is morally permissible. But Jackman’s character succeeds only in firstly making the viewer think he’s a bit of a dick, and then that the whole affair is really very funny. Tense scenes give way to unnecessary scenes and finally to giggle-worthy scenes (again, poisonous snakes erry’where!). As a rule, I dislike the crowd who call for ‘tighter editing’ regardless of the film – ‘I just feel Deuce Bigalow 5 ran long’ – but here, it is true. A full three hours in the cinema could easily be half an hour shorter.
That aside and overall, Prisoners is pretty good. It is genuinely tense thanks in part to gorgeous cinematography. If, like me, you’re partial to noir looking films, plenty of grey rainy and snowy days in rural Pennsylvania will have you enjoying the movie’s shadowy feeling. That cinematography does not however include shots of Hugh Jackman singing/dancing/shirtless which, when all is said and done, might be the fatal flaw of this film.