Prisoners Blu-ray Review

Prisoners Blu-ray ReviewFor a moment, imagine that you are a parent. Your child, whom you just saw a few minutes ago, has disappeared without a trace. The police involvement yields little in regards to leads or case progression and with each passing hour, hope is dimming on finding your missing child alive. At this point, what would you do? Would you let the police continue to do their work or would you begin your own pursuit for justice?

Those are a few of the questions raised in the new Dennis Villeneuve drama Prisoners. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a working-class, deeply religious family man, whose family finds their safe domestic existence turned upside down following a Thanksgiving dinner at their neighbor’s house, the Birches. While Keller and his wife Grace (Maria Bello) hang out with Franklin (Terrence Howard) and his wife Nancy (Viola Davis) indoors, Keller’s young daughter Anna and her friend Joy vanish without a trace just outside the house.

The police, led by a detective named Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) are soon on the case and they quickly take a suspect in custody: a mentally-challenged man named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Alex’s dilapidated RV was seen parked in the neighborhood around the time of the girls’ abduction. While it would appear that the police have their man, a complete lack of evidence dictates otherwise and Alex is soon released, much to the outrage of Keller and his family. With the police’s other leads turning up nothing and the chances growing slimmer by the hour of finding Anna and Joy alive, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands.

There are two halves to Prisoners, a family drama and a police procedural mystery. When it deals with how abduction can push a family to the breaking point, the movie works quite well. Villeneuve and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski effectively convey the hell the Dovers experience (even if they give the Birches some serious slighting). The duo also raises some thought-provoking moral questions surrounding the act of vigilantism. Roger Deakins’ (Skyfall) cinematography perfectly captures the story’s bleak atmosphere while the effective performances from the ensemble (the highlights being Jackman, Dano and Gyllenhaal) help lend the story credibility.

Prisoners Blu-ray Review

Had Villeneuve stuck with this part of the story, Prisoners would have wound up being one of the better films of 2013. Unfortunately, the film turns into a suspense thriller in its third act that is neither suspenseful nor thrilling. There are moments of creepiness, such as when Loki investigates the home of a pedophile priest in the film’s first act, that effectively underscore the film’s subject matter. When the twists and turns start to appear and take over the movie in its final hour, the dramatic punch so nicely built up over the previous ninety minutes is quickly deflated. As Prisoners plods on to its conclusion and the red herrings pile up with increasingly frequency, the only thing you may begin to care about is how much longer the film has left.

High-Def Presentation

Despite the mixed feelings I had for the film, I have no qualms about Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray transfer. The 1080p/AVC-encoded release handles the film’s multitude of dark scenes perfectly without the slightest bit of crush. Picture detail is strong and there is very little edge-enhancement or compression to be had. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix is also top notch. It’s subtly effective without going overboard with a sonic assault. Dialogue is clear and stereo separation in the front channels is nicely handled as are the occasional uses of surround channels. Fans of the film will be quite pleased with this fine transfer from Warner.

Prisoners Blu-ray Review

Beyond the Feature

One thing fans of Prisoners will not be too thrilled with is the utter lack of extras on this release. Given the movie’s reception this past fall I was expecting a little bit more in the supplemental material department: possibly an audio commentary with Villeneuve and/or Guzikowski, extended video interviews with the cast and crew and maybe even a theatrical trailer. Alas, what is included is both brief and of the puff-piece variety.

  • Every Moment Matters (3 minutes): a very quick EPK-type look at the movie.
  • Powerful Performances (9 minutes): Here are the interviews I was looking for with the film’s ensemble cast. Unfortunately, they are so brief that I would say they are interview snippets.

Prisoners has more than its fair share of supporters and to an extent, I can see why. The acting is strong and the screenplay offers up some challenging moral questions for its audience. Unfortunately, the by-the-numbers mystery aspects rob an otherwise fine drama of its emotional impact. Warner’s Blu-ray transfer of the film is great, even if the supplemental materials are weak to say the least. If you are curious about the film and missed it during its run this past fall, give it a rent. If you are a fan of the movie, you may want to wait until the disc goes on sale to purchase.

Shop for Prisoners on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon (December 17, 2013 release date).

Prisoners Blu-ray Review

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