Prisoners (2013 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenis Villeneuve
Produced by
Written byAaron Guzikowski
Music byJóhann Jóhannsson
CinematographyRoger A. Deakins
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
(United States)
Summit Entertainment
Release date
Running time
153 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$46 million[2]
Box office$122.1 million[2]

Prisoners is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve from a screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski. The film has an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano.[3] It was Villeneuve's first English-language feature film.

The plot focuses on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search for the suspected abductor 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. The film was a financial and critical success, grossing US$122 million worldwide. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2013, and at the 86th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Cinematography.


In Pennsylvania, Keller Dover, his wife Grace, son Ralph, and daughter Anna celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch and daughters Eliza and Joy. The four children go for a walk and notice a parked RV. After dinner, daughters Anna and Joy go missing. Keller calls the police to report their disappearances. Detective Loki responds, locates the RV at the edge of the woods, and arrests the driver, Alex Jones.

During interrogation, Loki realizes Alex's diminished IQ prevents him from planning a kidnapping, and that his RV contains no forensic evidence of the missing girls. Loki runs down leads on local pedophiles and finds Father Patrick Dunn, a priest with a corpse in his basement. Dunn admits to killing the man after he confessed to murdering 16 children for his "war on God."

Loki releases Alex to his aunt Holly. Convinced of Alex's guilt, Dover assaults him outside the police station. Alex tells Dover that "they didn't cry until I left them." When Loki deems the new information inconclusive, Dover kidnaps Alex and begins to torture him in an abandoned apartment building.

At a vigil for the girls, Loki notes a suspicious man in the crowd who subsequently flees. Loki releases a police sketch of the suspect to the local community. That night, the suspect sneaks into the Birch and Dover houses. Grace hears him and calls Loki who learns that Dover spends his nights away from home. He tails Dover to the apartment building, where Dover claims he sleeps to hide his grief and alcoholism from his family. Loki gets a call from a clerk who recognizes the suspect in the sketch. Loki tracks the suspect, Bob Taylor, to his apartment, and finds walls covered in maze drawings and crates filled with snakes and bloody children's clothes.

Loki discovers Taylor was abducted as a child. As Taylor meticulously scribbles maze drawings, Loki assaults him and demands the location of the missing girls. Taylor grabs an officer's gun and kills himself without revealing their location. The Birches and Dovers view photos of Taylor's apartment and identify several bloody clothes as Joy's and Anna's and conclude the girls are dead. At Taylor's apartment, Loki realizes many of the clothes are store-bought and are soaked with pig's blood.

Dover tortures Alex, who cryptically talks about escaping from a maze. Dover visits Alex's aunt Holly, apologizing for Alex's disappearance while hiding his own involvement. Holly says Alex's speech disability comes from a childhood accident involving the snakes her husband kept as pets. While devoutly religious, Holly and her husband lost their faith after their son died of cancer, and adopted Alex as a way to cope.

At the police station, Loki matches the maze pattern in Taylor's drawings to a necklace worn by the murdered man in Father Dunn's basement. Joy is found alive and rushed to a hospital. Grilling her for information, Dover hears her mumble: "you were there" and rushes out. Loki gives chase and travels to Dover's father's apartment expecting to find Dover but instead finding Alex.

Dover confronts Holly and accuses her of kidnapping the girls. Holly explains that before her husband disappeared, they abducted children as part of their "war on God" to avenge their son's death and create demons out of the traumatized parents. Alex was their first abduction, Taylor their second. Holding Dover at gunpoint, Holly drugs and imprisons him in a hidden pit in her yard, where he finds an emergency whistle belonging to his daughter.

Loki arrives to inform Holly that Alex has been found and enters her house. A photo of the late husband wearing the same maze necklace as the corpse in Dunn's basement prompts him to search for Holly who is about to kill Anna. The two exchange gunfire which kills Holly and injures Loki. Loki is able to rush Anna to the hospital in time. Grace thanks Loki, despite the knowledge that Dover will likely go to prison when found. Loki returns to Holly's house to supervise a forensic excavation. Just after halting work for the night, he faintly hears a whistle blowing.



Aaron Guzikowski wrote the script based on a short story he wrote, partially inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", involving "a father whose kid was struck by a hit and run driver and then puts this guy in a well in his backyard".[4] 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.[4] 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."[4] Principal photography began in Georgia in February 2013.[5]


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.[6] 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]

On review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 81% based on 250 reviews, with a rating average of 7.27/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8] 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–".[9][10]

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."[11] 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."[12] 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."[13]

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.[14]

Reviews have not been all positive. 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".[15] 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".[16]

Top ten lists[edit]

Prisoners was listed on various critics' top ten lists.[17]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(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[14] October 21, 2013 Best Supporting Actor Jake Gyllenhaal Won
Key Art Awards[19] October 24, 2013 Best Teaser – Audio/Visual "Ticking" Bronze
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards[20] February 15, 2014 Best Contemporary Make-Up Donald Mowat and 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 and Dylan Minnette Won
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 Performance by an Ensemble Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Aaron Guzikowski Nominated
Satellite Awards February 23, 2014 Best Cinematography Roger Deakins Nominated
Best Editing Gary D. Roach and 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 3rd Place
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 9, 2013 Best Ensemble Nominated


The Prisoners soundtrack, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, was released on September 20, 2013.[21]

1."The Lord's Prayer"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:31
2."I Can't Find Them"Jóhann Jóhannsson4:09
3."The Search Party"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:54
4."Surveillance Video"Jóhann Jóhannsson3:34
5."The Candlelight Vigil"Jóhann Jóhannsson5:10
6."Escape"Jóhann Jóhannsson5:44
7."The Tall Man"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:47
8."The Everyday Bible"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:23
9."Following Keller"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:11
10."Through Falling Snow"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:44
11."The Keeper"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:49
12."The Intruder"Jóhann Jóhannsson3:11
13."The Priest's Basement"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:48
14."The Snakes"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:51
15."The Trans Am"Jóhann Jóhannsson2:37
16."Prisoners"Jóhann Jóhannsson6:59
Total length:55:00[22]

See also[edit]


  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. IMDb. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  3. ^ "Hugh Jackman to Star in Vigilante Thriller PRISONERS for November 2013 Release". Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Giroux, Jack. "Interview: The Back-to-Basics Brutality of 'Prisoners'". Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  5. ^ Chitwood, Adam (2013-02-20). Production Begins on Denis Villeneuve’s Thriller PRISONERS, Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Collider, 20 February 2013. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Keogh, Joey (2015-11-18). "Not Quite Horror: Prisoners (2013)". Wicker Horror. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  7. ^ "Prisoners (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  8. ^ "Prisoners (2013)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  9. ^ Pamela McClintock (October 18, 2013). "CinemaScore in Retreat as Studios Turn to PostTrak". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-01-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Orr, Christopher (September 20, 2013). "Prisoners: Moral Exploration or Exploitation?". The Atlantic.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (2013). 'Prisoners' Review. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Thomson, David (2013). 'Prisoners' and the Rotten State of Hollywood. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from
  16. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (2013). Prisoners review. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from
  17. ^ "2013 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic.
  18. ^ Staff, IndieWire; Staff, IndieWire (December 25, 2013). "Indiewire's Editors and Bloggers Pick Their Top 10 Films (and In Some Cases TV Shows) of 2013".
  19. ^ "Catalog: Audio/Visual – Winners". Key Art Awards. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "Prisoners Soundtrack". Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  22. ^ "Prisoners Soundtrack". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved 2014-08-01.


External links[edit]