Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Prisoners

Prisoners
seen @ AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7, Fresh Meadows, Queens, NY
9.24.13

In my post on Zero Dark Thirty, I went into some length about violence in general and torture in specific, and why it's so appealing as a storytelling trope. I stated that I'm no different from most people in that I can deal with watching torture in a movie if it's in service to a strong story (though Twelve Years a Slave will test the limits of my tolerance, I'm sure), and that if indeed, torture was used in the search for Osama Bin Laden, I could live with that.

I still feel the same after watching Prisoners. The story is far from new - kidnapped children, angry and stressed-out parents, determined cop on the trail. Like Mystic River, a similar movie, the father suspects a dude who is a little mentally unbalanced and is convinced he knows more than he is able, or willing, to say. The difference is in the lengths the father in Prisoners is willing to go towards finding out the truth - and he goes really far.


It's almost impossible to look at a movie like this and not think of Iraq and the so-called "war on terror" that defined the previous decade. Hugh Jackman's character has a certainty, like Meryl Streep in Doubt, another Iraq War metaphor movie, that he cannot waver from because the stakes are so high. He sees connections where others might see coincidences and needs to believe so much that he's right because to be wrong would be unthinkable. He's also a religious man, but unlike Streep in Doubt, his faith doesn't figure that much into the story.

Maybe this is what makes some people in real life, whether politicians or religious leaders or what have you, able to live their lives with a certainty - not so much because they believe in a thing, but because they're afraid to not believe in it. The more I think about it, the more probable that seems to me. We needed to believe that Sadaam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction because we needed a quick and easy solution to the problems that grew out of the nightmare that was September 11. The alternative was to go on and on without finding an answer to the question every American wanted answered, the question Jackman keeps asking in Prisoners: who's to blame and where is he?


Fear, of course, is easily exploitable, in the spheres of both religion and politics. Those who have that certainty often bully those without it into coming around to their way of thinking, one way or another. In Prisoners, Terence Howard's child is also missing, and Jackman guilts Howard into helping him torture a suspect for information, playing on Howard's fears in the process - and isn't that how it works in real life as well? Vote for me or you'll have to pay higher taxes. Worship the same god as me or you'll miss out on eternal salvation.

Again, none of this is new; it's more the intensity of the situation as it's presented and the performances by Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cop searching for the missing children, that's different, and it gripped me completely, I must admit. The kidnapper's true identity requires connecting a few dots on the viewer's part, and a second viewing may clarify things more - I think I understood the motive, but I'm not positive about that. And then there's that final scene. A film noir-like ending if ever I saw one.


Unlike my last movie at the Fresh Meadows, I had no big problems with the audience this time. There was a chatty couple next to me, but I only had to shush them once, and quietly at that, and that was enough. Still, there was one scene late in the movie where the chick criticized the way Gyllenhaal handles a violent suspect and I had to laugh, even though the scene itself was not funny at all, because she kinda had a point! (Can't say more without giving away spoilers.) 

Also, I figured out how to adjust the reclining seats. I had a bit of a problem with them last time, and eventually, everyone in my row had their legs propped up, which I thought was funny to see.

2 comments:

  1. Rich, I haven't seen PRISONERS yet, but with that cast and the subject matter (what with me being a parent myself), I'm very interested!

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  2. It's a little tough to sit through in places, but I think it's worth it.

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