Purchase photos

Child abduction portrayal 'arresting'

9/24/2013

What's the difference, if any, between watching a movie about a child abductor and watching a news story about a child abductor? The obvious answers are one is true and one is not, and one is for informational purposes and one is for entertainment. What happens to that line when a movie is based on a true story or a news report is embellished for dramatic effect?

What's the difference, if any, between watching a movie about a child abductor and watching a news story about a child abductor? The obvious answers are one is true and one is not, and one is for informational purposes and one is for entertainment. What happens to that line when a movie is based on a true story or a news report is embellished for dramatic effect?

"Prisoners" is a compelling story about a disturbing and real issue. It's difficult to watch and is more than a little troubling. That said, the violence and the intensity all serve the story. The film isn't gruesome for gruesomeness' sake; nevertheless, it's not for the faint of heart.

"Prisoners" tells the story of two families whose young daughters are abducted and how far they will go to get them back. The highest praise I can offer is this: I wasn't positive how all of the pieces fit together until they fell into place. Most modern thrillers end one of two ways -- with a telegraphed ending that can be identified miles away or with a last minute reversal that feels like a cheat. "Prisoners" does neither -- it offers a truly engaging mystery that could have gone multiple directions, but once the final piece fell in place, it was a snug fit.

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver commanding performances complex enough to both guide the narrative and add mystery to the story. Too often in these kind of movies, the spotlight falls entirely on the mystery or entirely on the shock value. "Prisoners" is arresting. It carries emotional weight. It feels real, which is appropriate for such an oxymoronically grounded serial killer/psychopath movie.

Now that fall is officially here, I feel confident in saying "Prisoners" is the first entry in what will hopefully be an amazing, and entertaining, "Oscar season."

5 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation. james.gerstner@gmail.com