Prisoners (2013 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Produced by
Written by Aaron Guzikowski
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cinematography Roger A. Deakins
Edited by
Alcon Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 153 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $46 million[2]
Box office $122,126,687[2]

Prisoners is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film has an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano.[3] The plot focuses on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.


Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of their neighbors Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis). Both families' young daughters, Anna Dover (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons), go missing. Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests the driver of a suspicious vehicle, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who has the IQ of a ten-year-old, but finds no link. Dover attacks Jones as he is released, and Jones whispers to him: "They didn't cry until I left them." With the help of Franklin, Dover abducts Jones and imprisons him in an abandoned apartment building, torturing him for days, but learns nothing.

Pursuing other leads, Loki discovers a corpse in the basement of a priest's house. The priest admits that he killed the man because he confessed he was "waging a war against God" and boasted of killing sixteen children. At a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a hooded man acting suspiciously who flees when Loki approaches him. The man breaks into both girls' houses. A store clerk recognizes the man from an e-fit and reports him buying children's clothing. The suspect, Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), is arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children's clothing. The Birches and Dover identify some of the clothing as belonging to their daughters. Taylor confesses to the abduction, but kills himself before revealing any more information. The police conclude that Taylor stole the clothes from the girls' homes and bloodied them with pig's blood to recreate abductions, and had no involvement in the disappearance.

Dover continues to torture Jones, who denies he is Alex Jones and claims he escaped from a maze. Dover visits Jones's aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo), who tells him that she and her husband were religious until their son died of cancer at a young age.

Joy Birch is found drugged but alive. When Dover visits Joy in the hospital to ask for information, she is confused and mumbles "You were there", making him a suspect. Loki searches for Dover at his apartment house and discovers Jones.

At the Jones' house, Holly pulls a gun on Dover. She explains that she and her husband abducted many other children as part of their "war on God" for letting their young son die of cancer. Alex was the first child they abducted, followed by Bob Taylor. Holly imprisons Dover in a concealed pit in her yard where he finds a whistle belonging to his daughter.

Loki goes to Holly's house to tell her that Jones has been found. He finds a photograph of Holly's husband wearing the same maze pendant found on the body in the priest's basement. Loki finds Holly with Anna and exchanges gunfire, wounding him and killing Holly. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital, where she recovers and reunites with her mother. Outside the Jones's house, Loki hears Dover's labored whistling from the pit.



The film 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, but after being edited, it was re-rated to R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.

Critical response[edit]

Prisoners received positive reviews from critics. The film currently has an 82% approval rating on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 224 reviews. Its consensus reads: "Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing."[4] 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." Metacritic provides a score of 74 out of 100, based on 46 reviews, indicating 'Generally favorable reviews'.[5]

Prisoners was also a second runner up for the BlackBerry People's Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, where it came behind Philomena and 12 Years a Slave. Jake Gyllenhaal was selected to receive the Best Supporting Actor of the Year Award at the 2013 Hollywood Film Festival for his performance as Detective Loki as

a truly compelling, subtly layered portrayal of a man tasked with the impossible and driven by the demons of his own past. Jake has given a myriad of outstanding performances throughout his career. But his work in this film achieves a new level of complexity, as reflected in the rave reviews the film has received.[6]

Box office[edit]

Prisoners grossed $20,817,053 in its opening weekend in North America and ended up earning $61,002,302 domestically and $61,124,385 internationally for a worldwide gross of $122,126,687.[2]


Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards March 2, 2014 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers February 1, 2014 Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association December 16, 2013 Best Cinematography Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 16, 2014 Best Cinematography Nominated
Empire Awards March 30, 2014 Best Thriller Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival[6] October 21, 2013 Best Supporting Actor Jake Gyllenhaal Won
Key Art Awards[7] October 24, 2013 Best Teaser - Audio/Visual "Ticking" Bronze
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards[8] February 15, 2014 Best Contemporary Make-Up Donald Mowat, Pamela Westmore Won
National Board of Review December 4, 2013 Best Cast Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis,
Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette
Top Ten Films Won
People's Choice Awards January 8, 2014 Favorite Dramatic Movie Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society December 11, 2013 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated
Best Ensemble Performance Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Aaron Guzikowski Nominated
Satellite Awards February 23, 2014 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated
Best Editing Gary D. Roach, Joel Cox Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated
Saturn Awards June 26, 2014 Best Make-up Donald Mowat Won
Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo Nominated
Best Thriller Film Nominated
Toronto International Film Festival September 15, 2013 People's Choice Award Denis Villeneuve 3
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 9, 2013 Best Ensemble Nominated


The soundtrack to Prisoners was released on 20 September 2013.[9]

No. Title Artist Length
1. "The Lord's Prayer"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:31
2. "I Can't Find Them"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 4:09
3. "The Search Party"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:54
4. "Surveillance Video"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 3:34
5. "The Candlelight Vigil"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 5:10
6. "Escape"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 5:44
7. "The Tall Man"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:47
8. "The Everyday Bible"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:23
9. "Following Keller"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:11
10. "Through Falling Snow"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:44
11. "The Keeper"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:49
12. "The Intruder"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 3:11
13. "The Priest's Basement"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:48
14. "The Snakes"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:51
15. "The Trans Am"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 2:37
16. "Prisoners"   Jóhann Jóhannsson 6:59
Total length:


  1. ^ "PRISONERS (15)". E1 Films. British Board of Film Classification. September 13, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Prisoners (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hugh Jackman to Star in Vigilante Thriller PRISONERS for November 2013 Release". March 15, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Prisoners (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Prisoners Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Feinberg, Scott (September 23, 2013). "Jake Gyllenhaal to Receive Acting Honor at Hollywood Film Awards (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Catalog: Audio/Visual - Winners". Key Art Awards. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  8. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (February 15, 2014). "'Dallas Buyers Club,' 'Bad Grandpa' Win at Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ Prisoners Soundtrack Retrieved 1 August 2014
  10. ^ Prisoners Soundtrack Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved 1 August 2014

External links[edit]