Jul 11, 2014

Literary Review : Prisoners

Prisoners is Literary Merit Certified

Thesis:  Although baring some holes in its script and forcing the audience to accept some questionable antagonist motives, Prisoners successfully executes a gritty mystery/drama by focusing on the perspectives of those most haunted by the trauma.

Key Points:
  • The desperation of the father and detective drive the film
  • The environment and score contribute to the desolate atmosphere
  • The captivating portrayal of the father and detective over shadow the holes in the script and questionable antagonists.  
The desperation of the father and detective drive the film
Their motives and actions are captivating, and ultimately drive the interest of the film.  Although the surrounding environment is enriching and the plot is enough to reach front page of national news, the depth of their desperation draws the audience to enter the deep and dark place that the film dares to descend.  

Keller Dover (father)
Hugh Jackman utilizes the testosterone fueled aggression that helped secure him the role of Wolverine, to present a relatable portrayal of a vengeful father relentlessly seeking the abductor of his daughter. His anger and impulsive actions can be understood by the audience (especially if the viewer has any children of their own), making the film feel honest.  By creating an honest character portrayal, the film has freed itself from viewer skepticism, allowing itself to demonstrate the extreme magnitude that Keller Dover is willing to take to find the location of his daughter.  Kidnapping, torture, and incarceration are all actions that a reasonable person would never consider.  But forced into a situation where a raging father believes that police and authorities are not fulfilling their civic obligation, that are not working relentlessly to find an innocent little girl, then it suspends belief, and allows the audience to believe that the actions of Keller Dover, although extreme, desperate, and radical, are honest.  

Detective Loki (detective)
There isn't much revealed about the detective.  His history isn't revealed, personal tastes aren't disclosed.  All that we know is that he has solved all of his cases, twitches his eyes due to an unknown and unacknowledged condition, and buttons his shirt all the way to the collar.  Should the audience believe that we have an atypical, hard-nosed, down-on-his luck cop?  Or should the audience believe that, because Detective Loki has solved all of his cases, that he's actually a well studied and above his time detective?  It's hard to say.  Not knowing his history prevents the audience from typecasting the detective, which gives the film some more ambiguity.  And that ambiguity gives the character some freedom, by not having to fulfill pre-conceived expectations, of what we're expected of on-screen pigs.

The Score 
The score was great.  It's not a Grammy winning sound track.  Instead, it adds subtly anxiety to very specific scenes, helping the audience commit to the realness of the film.

Plot Holes
The film wasn't perfect, so there are most likely other holes.  But one glaring hole that I'd like to mention is the forensic teams inability to find Keller Dover's truck or bag of tools.  So after Dover is brought to the hole by Ms. Leo, Detective Loki shows up shortly after.  There could not have been any more than 1 hour between the time Dover went into the hole, and the time that Loki showed up.  So how did Ms. Leo find time to hide Dover's truck and bag of tools?  She wouldn't have been able to.  So how did the forensic team not find the Dover's truck and bag of tools?  They had reason to believe that Dover was there, and should have noticed that his truck and tools were there.  This did not deflect from the mood, tension, or atmosphere the film built.  However, anyone paying attention will have noticed that this is something that was not presented honestly, and is asking the audience to dismiss its unfeasibility.

Conclusion: Contains Literary Merit
Regardless of the ending plot hole, the atmosphere and honest characters pitted into this atmosphere justify the tension and radical decisions that the characters present.  Detective Loki's collectiveness, and Keller Dover's anger, build an tense parallax within the film, that contributes to the stressful situations that they both find themselves in.


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