Prisoners

This movie managed to sneak up on me. I didn't see a single trailer for it, despite the fact that I usually end up seeing every trailer for every major motion picture out there, whether I want to see said trailer or not. They're called trailers because they used to trail after the main feature, but someone eventually figured out that people don't stick around after the main feature and they were moved to the front instead.

Anyway, with Hugh Jackman (aka Wolverine) in the movie, I would've thought they'd be glad to spend money on advertising, but apparently not. His character has the unlikely name of Keller Dover, and he lives somewhere in Pennsylvania with his wife Grace (Maria Bello, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and the requisite two kids, in this case Ralph (Dylan Minnette, Let Me In) and Anna (Erin Gerasimovich). They're best friends with the Birches down the street, Franklin and Nancy (Terrence Howard of Iron Man and Viola Davis of Knight & Day, respectively). And one rainy Thanksgiving, Anna and the Birches' daughter, Joy, disappear.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code) is the police detective in charge of the case, and he has the equally unlikely name of Detective Loki. I was very curious about his first name, but we never find that out, alas. Maybe his parents wanted a police officer in the family and just christened him Detective. He does this weird thing with his eyes, blinking them very deliberately every now and then almost as if he's signalling someone, like the drummer in the Hitchcock movie, Young and Innocent. He also snarls a lot at his boss (Wayne Duvall, Edge of Darkness), who snarls right back, but I think they actually like each other all right. That's just how they talk. I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, early on the investigation focuses on a battered old RV that was parked near the spot where the girls were last seen. The RV tracks to one Alex Jones (Paul Dano of Looper, and also the aforementioned Knight & Day), a young man who isn't quite right in the head who lives with his aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo, Oblivion). She insists that he's harmless, never been the slightest trouble, and she's raised him since his parents died when he was six. Even Detective Loki is reluctantly forced to conclude that he isn't the culprit... but Keller is convinced otherwise, and that's when things get scary. He doesn't quite look like Wolverine here, of course, but he's still got a scary look about him.

It's very low-key compared to how Hollywood usually handles this sort of storyline, but it works very well, I think. There were a couple of places when several people in the audience gasped aloud, and that doesn't happen much, believe me. So I'll give it four out of five. There were one or two slightly implausible things, but overall it was very realistic and tense, and well-paced, which also doesn't happen as often as it should. There are even a couple of times when you're not quite sure whose side you should be on, or who might be a prisoner to whom, and those are both good and even more rare. Now I'm just going to go thank whoever decided not to let Mark Wahlberg near the part of Keller, because that really would have been scary.

Image: 
Keller and Alex have a minor disagreement.

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