Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

We're All 'Prisoners' of Our Choices

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

We're All 'Prisoners' of Our Choices

Article excerpt

The most persistent criticism I have of movies today is length. Even most films I admire could be shortened a bit, and be the better for it. "Prisoners" is the rare exception of a long movie that earns its time; I didn't begrudge it any one of its 153 minutes.

This intricately-plotted psychological thriller is like a puzzle box that seems mystifying at first, but the deeper you go the clearer things come into focus. In the end all the little pieces mesh together perfectly.

The story of two kidnapped little girls and the two men trying desperately to find them - one an angry, grieving father, the other an obsessive police detective - "Prisoners" defies easy categorization. On the surface it wears the clothes of a crime procedural. But also it's about the conflict between these two characters. Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), the dad, is all gut instincts and faith. His emotions frequently get the better of him as time goes on and the chances of finding the girls alive plummet. Loki, the detective played by Jake Gyllenhaal, operates on logic and dogged determination. Early on we learn that he has never failed to solve a case, mainly because his life consists of little else but the hunt.

On an even deeper level, the film is a morality play, questioning whether extreme actions in the service of good can ever justify themselves. Keller becomes convinced that a simple-minded, nearly mute man named Alex (Paul Dano) has something to do with the disappearance of his daughter and another family's girl on Thanksgiving Day.

Alex's busted-up RV was spotted near where the girls went missing, and he initially ran from police. But they find no evidence to hold him, and Keller takes matters into his own hands. He enlists the aid of the other aggrieved father (Terrence Howard) in holding Alex hostage, which sets off a conflict between the two. There's a subtle rivalry between them: the well-off yuppie versus the blue- collar survivalist, the voice of civil reason against the "man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" individualist credo. …

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