I have to admit, before seeing Prisoners, I just figured I was in for another overdramatic Mystic River ripoff. Turns out, I was more foolhardily incorrect than when I thought Don Cheadle and Tim Meadows were the same person. (Honestly, I’m still not convinced that that wasn’t Tim Meadows in Hotel Rwanda). Much to my surprise, this film found its own artistic footing and delivered something truly original. By the film’s end, the crowd was on its feet and literally applauding like the studio audience of Married...with Children every time Christina Applegate entered a scene, except less misogynistic and rapey.
While seeing the film, I had the pleasure of sitting next to two, charming, golden-aged women who happened to know the writer, Aaron Guzikowski. Apparently, these ladies live down the street from “The Guz”, a nickname that I just made up, and promised me they’d send him this review. So, if you’re reading this Aaron, please know that I might drop the obligatory, “Hey, you should check out this screenplay I’ve been working on," if you ever choose to write me. Also, what’s Terrance Howard like? He’s got to be regretting not returning for Iron Man 2, right?
But I digress. The film follows the story of Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), a belligerent carpenter set to light the world on fire after his daughter is kidnapped and the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) ready to douse the flames. Jackman just sets his livid war cry/grunt dial to eleven, knocking holes in walls and smashing up sinks, making his Wolverine character look like a he should be in the Mickey Mouse Club.
On the other end of the spectrum, Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki adds a more three-dimensional realism to the "cop who plays by his own rules" archetype, although a few of his scenes went something like this:
INT. POLICE STATION – NIGHT
Gyllenhaal storms toward the exit ready to punch destiny in the clam.
Hey Detective, don’t forget to bring you’re rulebook!
I’m all set, Kemosabi. Can’t you see my knuckle tattoos?
For real though, he’s got these sweet ass knuckle tattoos that I assume read: "B-O-X-E-A-T-E-R" or something. On a serious note though, he was complex and introspective and contemplative, and represented the perfect "slow and steady wins the race" tortoise to Jackman’s coked up juggernaut.
And, wow, the ending. THE. FUCKING. ENDING. Prisoners has one of the best endings in recent memory.
Doctor Creepy himself, Paul Dano, stars as the main suspect: a loner with the I.Q. of a fourth grader who ate a little too much Elmer’s. He drives around in a dirty RV, the Rolls-Royce of pedophile automobiles, just being generally sketchy and probably killing squirrels and shit.
As previously mentioned, Terrance Howard made an appearance, playing his typical, soft-spoken guy who seems to be indifferent to most major dramatic decisions. In the film, his daughter is kidnapped along with Jackman’s, but he just decides to lay low instead of getting all heroic. Listen, I know I should probably be saving my daughter, buuuut I’m kind of not feeling so hot. I think I’m coming down with a cold maybe. And I’ve gotta be up in the morning for this thing. I think I’m gonna sit this one out guys. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s had the same haircut since 1999. His widow’s peak looks like it’s making a run for it.
Oh, and I straight up didn’t even recognize Melissa Leo as the cat lady, sweater enthusiast, aunt of Doctor Creepy, until the very end of the movie. Ten gold star stickers to the makeup department for that.
The writing was nothing short of brilliant and perhaps will serve as a reminder to Hollywood that penning a script is more than just coming up with witty banter, twist endings and cheap one-liners. Unlike most dramas of late, nothing felt half-baked. The plot devices and motifs were all carefully calculated and fully realized as the film progressed.
And, wow, the ending. THE. FUCKING. ENDING. Prisoners has one of the best endings in recent memory. It epitomized the theme of the movie without the need of a big twist or reveal. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I get a substantial half-chub just thinking about it.
Four Pins Rating: 9.5/10 Paul Danos Hiding Under Your Bed
Matt Rimer is a writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter here.