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Prisoners (2013 film)

Prisoners (2013 film)

Prisoners is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski. The film has an ensemble cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and David Dastmalchian.

The film follows the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search for the perpetrator by the police. After police arrest a young suspect and release him, the father of one of the daughters takes matters into his own hands.

Prisoners premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013, and was released to theaters on September 20, 2013. The film was a financial and critical success, grossing $122 million worldwide against a production budget of $46 million, and receiving generally positive reviews from critics. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2013, and at the 86th Academy Awards, Roger Deakins was nominated for Best Cinematography.

In Conyers, Pennsylvania, the Dover and Birch families celebrate Thanksgiving. After dinner, girls Anna Dover and Joy Birch go missing after playing on a parked RV. Detective Loki responds to a police call about an RV matching the description and arrests the man inside, Alex Jones. During interrogation, Loki realizes Alex's diminished IQ prevents him from planning a kidnapping and learns that his RV contains no forensic evidence of the missing girls. Loki runs down leads on local sex offenders and finds a corpse in the house of Priest Patrick Dunn. Dunn admits to killing him after the man confessed to murdering sixteen children for his "war on God.”

The police release Alex to his aunt, Holly. Convinced of Alex's guilt, Keller Dover, the father of one of the missing girls, assaults him outside the police station, where Alex whispers to him, "They didn't cry 'til I left them." After Loki finds no proof of this, Keller kidnaps Alex, and begins to torture Alex for information about his daughter, in an empty building Keller owns.

At a vigil for the girls, Loki approaches a suspicious man who flees. Loki releases a sketch of him to the community. The suspect sneaks into the Birch and Dover houses. Grace, Keller's wife, hears him and calls Loki. He tails Keller to the empty building, where Keller claims he goes to drink, but Loki doesn't find Alex. Loki tracks down the suspect, Bob Taylor, at his house. The walls are covered in maze drawings and Loki opens crates filled with snakes and bloody children's clothes. Loki shows Keller and the Birch parents photos of the bloody clothes, and they identify several as Joy's and Anna's. As Taylor draws detailed mazes, Loki assaults him, demanding the location of the girls. Taylor grabs an officer's gun and kills himself.

Keller continues torturing Alex, who cryptically talks about a maze. Keller visits Holly, learning that Alex's stuttering comes from a childhood accident involving snakes her husband kept. Holly and her husband lost their faith after their son died of cancer, and they adopted Alex as a way to cope. Loki matches the maze pattern in Taylor's drawings to a necklace depicting a maze worn by the corpse in Dunn's house. At Taylor's house, Loki is informed that most of the bloody clothes are store-bought and soaked with pig blood. Below a window outside the Dover house, Loki finds Taylor's footprints and a sock matching Anna's, which Keller had earlier identified.

The drugged Anna and Joy attempt to escape, but only Joy gets away and is found and hospitalized. When Keller questions a woozy Joy, she remembers little, but tells him, "You were there." He immediately rushes out. Loki gives chase and arrives at Keller's building expecting to find him, but instead finds Alex. Keller goes to Holly's to find Anna. They talk for a while and then Holly pulls a gun. She explains that before her husband disappeared, they abducted children as part of their war on God to avenge their son's death, and to create demons out of the traumatized parents. Alex was their first abduction, Taylor was their second. Holly imprisons Keller in a hidden pit in her yard, where he finds his daughter's whistle.

Loki enters Holly's house to inform her that Alex has been found, but instead finds a photo of her late husband wearing the maze necklace. Realizing that Holly is the kidnapper, he searches and finds her giving Anna an injection. In a shootout, Loki kills Holly but is grazed in the head. He rushes Anna to the hospital while fighting unconsciousness.

A recuperating Anna and Joy visit a bandaged Loki in his hospital room to thank him. Later, Loki wanders the crime scene at Holly's house, when he faintly hears a whistle blowing.

Aaron Guzikowski wrote the script for the 2009 Annual Black List, and based on a short story he wrote, involving "a father whose kid was struck by a hit-and-run driver and then puts this guy in a well in his backyard". That short story was partially inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart".

After he wrote the spec, many actors and directors entered and exited the project, including actors Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio and directors Antoine Fuqua and Bryan Singer.

Ultimately Guzikowski would credit producer Mark Wahlberg for getting the project on its feet, stating, "He was totally pivotal in getting the film made. That endorsement helped it get around." Principal photography began in Georgia in February 2013.

Prisoners premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival and was released theatrically in Canada and the United States on September 20, 2013. It was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA "for substantial disturbing violent content and explicit images"; after being edited, it was re-rated R "for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout".

Prisoners opened in North America on September 20, 2013, in 3,260 theaters and grossed $20,817,053 in its opening weekend, averaging $6,386 per theater and ranking #1 at the box office. After 77 days in theaters, the film ended up earning $61,002,302 domestically and $61,124,385 internationally, earning a worldwide gross of $122,126,687, above its production budget of $46 million.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 81% based on 254 reviews, with a rating average of 7.3/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote: "Ethical exploration or exploitation? In the end, I come down reservedly on the former side: the work done here by Jackman, Gyllenhaal, and especially Villeneuve is simply too powerful to ignore." Ed Gibbs of The Sun Herald wrote: "Not since Erskineville Kings, in 1999, has Hugh Jackman appeared so emotionally exposed on screen. It is an exceptional, Oscar-worthy performance." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that Gyllenhaal was "exceptional" and that "Villeneuve takes his unflashy time building character and revealing troubled psyches in the most unlikely of places."

The film was a second runner-up for the BlackBerry People's Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, behind Philomena and 12 Years a Slave. Gyllenhaal received the Best Supporting Actor of the Year Award at the 2013 Hollywood Film Festival for his "truly compelling, subtly layered" performance as Detective Loki.

Not all reviews were positive, however. Writing in The New Republic, David Thomson declared that the film was "weary after ten minutes" and furthermore "hideous, cruel, degrading, depressing, relentless, prolonged, humorless, claustrophobic, and a mockery of any surviving tradition in which films are entertaining". A mixed review came from Sheila O'Malley of, who gave the film 2.5 stars out of a possible 4. She wrote that Jackman's performance grew "monotonous" and that the film sometimes verged on pretentiousness, but was redeemed by a few excellent suspense sequences and Gyllenhaal's performance, whose "subtlety is welcome considering all the teeth gnashing going on in other performances".

Audiences polled by CinemaScore initially gave the film a grade "B+" on an A+ to F scale, but Warner Bros asked for a recount by the service and later said the film received a grade "A−".

The Prisoners soundtrack, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, was released on September 20, 2013.

  • The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), an Argentine-Spanish film which includes a theme of suspect kidnapping
  • Official website
  • Prisoners at IMDb 
  • Prisoners at AllMovie
  • Prisoners at Box Office Mojo
  • Prisoners at Metacritic
  • Prisoners at Rotten Tomatoes

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Prisoners (2013 film) by Wikipedia (Historical)