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 Deakins
Edited by
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
Running time
153 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $46 million[2]
Box office $122 million[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 wife Grace (Maria Bello) attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of their neighbors Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy Birch (Viola Davis). Both families' young daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing.

Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests and questions the driver of a suspicious vehicle, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), who has the IQ of a ten-year-old; but he finds no link. Dover attacks Jones as he is released, and Jones whispers to him: "They didn't cry until I left them." Dover abducts Jones and imprisons him in an abandoned apartment building, torturing him for days with the help of a reluctant Franklin but they learn nothing.

Pursuing other leads, Loki discovers a corpse in the basement of Father Patrick Dunn's house. The priest (Len Cariou) 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, is arrested at his home, whose walls are covered in drawings of mazes. Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children's clothing, including items belonging to the missing girls. Taylor confesses to the abduction; but he kills himself before revealing more information. The police conclude that Taylor was a fantasist and had no involvement with the disappearances; he stole the clothes from the girls' homes and bloodied them with pig's blood to recreate abductions.

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 young son died of cancer.

Joy Birch is found drugged but alive. Dover visits her in the hospital to ask for information. Her memories are confused; and she mumbles "You were there", making him a suspect. He realizes she may have seen him at the Jones's house and runs from the police. Loki searches for Dover at the apartment building and discovers Jones.

Dover goes to the Jones's house to get information from Holly, but she pulls a gun on him. She explains that she and her late husband abducted many children as part of their "war on God" after their son's death. Alex was the first child they abducted, followed by 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 reunites with her mother. Outside the Jones's house, Loki hears Dover's labored whistling from the pit.



Box office[edit]

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.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Prisoners received generally positive reviews from film critics.[4] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a score of score of 82% based on 223 reviews, with a rating average of 7.3 out of 10. The site's critical consensus states: "Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing."[5] On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film has a score of 74 out of 100 based on 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[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." 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.[6]


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 Prisoners soundtrack, composed by Johann Johannsson, 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. ^ a b "Prisoners Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Prisoners (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  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]