Prisoners

 

Prisoners is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski.

 

The film has an ensemble cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Maria Bello.

 

The film follows the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search for the perpetrator 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.

 

Prisoners premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013, and was released to theaters on September 20, 2013. The film was a financial and critical success, grossing $122 million worldwide against a production budget of $46 million, and receiving generally positive reviews from critics. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2013, and at the 86th Academy Awards, Roger Deakins was nominated for Best Cinematography.

 

In Conyers, Pennsylvania, the Dover and Birch families celebrate Thanksgiving. After dinner, girls Anna Dover and Joy Birch go missing after playing on a parked RV. Detective Loki responds to a police call about an RV matching the description and arrests the man inside, Alex Jones. During interrogation, Loki realizes Alex's diminished IQ prevents him from planning a kidnapping and learns that his RV contains no forensic evidence of the missing girls. Loki runs down leads on local pedophiles and finds a corpse in the house of Priest Patrick Dunn. Dunn admits to killing him after the man confessed to murdering sixteen children for his "war on God".

 

The police captain releases Alex to his aunt, Holly. Convinced of Alex's guilt, Keller Dover, the father of one of the missing girls, assaults him outside the police station, where Alex whispers to him, "They didn't cry 'til I left them." After Loki finds no proof of this, Keller kidnaps Alex, and begins to torture Alex for information about his daughter, in an empty building Keller owns.

 

At a vigil for the girls, Loki approaches a suspicious man who flees. Loki releases a sketch of him to the community. The suspect sneaks into the Birch and Dover houses. Grace, Keller's wife, hears him and calls Loki, who learns while responding that Keller spends his nights away from home. He tails Keller to the empty building, where Keller claims he goes to drink, but Loki doesn't find Alex. Loki tracks down the suspect, Bob Taylor, at his house. The walls are covered in maze drawings and Loki opens crates filled with snakes and bloody children's clothes. Loki shows Keller and the Birch parents photos of the bloody clothes, and they identify several as Joy's and Anna's. As Taylor draws detailed mazes, Loki assaults him and demands the location of the girls. Taylor grabs an officer's gun and kills himself.

 

Keller continues torturing Alex for the location of the girls, and Alex cryptically talks about escaping from a maze. Keller visits Holly, learning that Alex's stuttering comes from a childhood accident involving snakes her husband kept. Holly and her husband lost their faith after their son died of cancer, and they adopted Alex as a way to cope. Loki matches the maze pattern in Taylor's drawings to a necklace depicting a maze worn by the corpse in Dunn's house. At Taylor's house, Loki is informed that most of the bloody clothes are store-bought and soaked with pig blood. Below a window outside the Dover house, Loki finds Taylor's footprints and a sock matching Anna's, which Keller had earlier identified.

 

The drugged Anna and Joy attempt to escape, but only Joy gets away and is found and hospitalized. When Keller questions a woozy Joy, she remembers little, but tells him, "You were there." He immediately rushes out. Loki gives chase and arrives at Keller's building expecting to find him, but instead finds Alex. Keller goes to Holly's to find Anna. They talk for a while and then Holly pulls a gun. She explains that before her husband disappeared, they abducted children as part of their war on God to avenge their son's death, and to create demons out of the traumatized parents. Alex was their first abduction, Taylor was their second. Holly imprisons Keller in a hidden pit in her yard, where he finds his daughter's whistle.

 

Loki enters Holly's house to inform her that Alex has been found, but instead finds a photo of her late husband wearing the maze necklace. Realizing that Holly is the kidnapper, he searches and finds her giving Anna an injection. In a shootout, Loki kills Holly but is grazed in the head. He rushes Anna to the hospital while fighting unconsciousness.

A recuperating Anna and Joy visit a bandaged Loki in his hospital room to thank him. Later, Loki wanders the crime scene at Holly's house, when he faintly hears a whistle blowing.