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Movies & TV

25th Mar 2024

Netflix viewers have one day left to watch ’10/10′ thriller that has ‘some of the best acting ever’

Patrick McCarry


“Look, kid, we can’t always save the day. All right? We’re just cops. Janitors.”

Back in 2013, way before he was ever in the frame for the Dune franchise, director delivered a movie that is as tense and jarring as they come. Prisoners has a ridiculously talented cast, with two of its leading men swinging for the fences.

The story revolves around the Dover and Birch families, who meet up to celebrate Thanksgiving together. After dinner, though, Anna and Joy – daughters from the respective families – go missing and cannot be found. A full police search kicks into gear, with an early suspect emerging, but the days pass quickly and the families are no closer to being reunited with their girls.

It has enjoyed a good, recent run on Netflix but will leave the streamer on March 26 so act fast if you want to give it a watch.

As Detective Loki [a wired, sleepless Jake Gyllenhaal] goes about his case to find the girls, fathers Keller Dover [Hugh Jackman] and Franklin Birch [Terrence Howard] take the law into their owns hands, and do some investigating of their own. When a second suspect enters the fray, the story swerves out of control as both families and the police struggle to remain tethered.

From a purely subjective point of view, I felt at the time that this was the peak for Gyllenhaal and Jackman. A decade on and my mind has not changed, despite Gyllenhaal’s stunning performance in Nightcrawler and Jackman managing to appear in Logan and The Greatest Showman [some going!] in the space of a few 2017 months.

Gyllenhaal taps into the on-screen personas he brought us in Donnie Darko and Zodiac to give Detective Loki a blurred edge that the character did not have in the original screenplay.

This movie could be all about the absolute tour-de-force from Jackman but that is offset by Gyllenhaal’s slightly unhinged detective and a supporting cast that is, quite frankly, staggering – Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Melissa Leo are excellent, with Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian both eerily affected, and effective.

PrisonersJake Gyllenhaal (Detective Loki) and Hugh Jackman (Keller Dover) in Prisoners. (Credit: Warner Bros. and Getty)

Actors originally attached or considered for Prisoners

The Aaron Guzikowski screenplay for Prisoners was floating around Hollywood since 2009, with Dennis Villeneuve explaining that it took some inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Tell-Tale Heart.

The ticking clock in this story is the one that begins the moment the two young girls, Anna and Joy, are abducted. While Detective Loki must stick (close) to the book in his investigations, Keller Dover finds he can cut whatever corners he needs as he tries desperately to get answers.

Mark Wahlberg took an early interest in bringing the screenplay to the silver screen and was, for a time, attached to play the role of Dover. Also considered for the main role – a father that will stop at nothing to try find his daughter – were Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio. In terms of directors, Antoine Fuqua [Training Day, The Equalizer] and Bryan Singer [X-Men] were in the mix before Villeneuve got the gig.

Eventually, the movie crossed the path of Hugh Jackman. Wisely, the Australian actor wanted in. He was four movies, and 13 years, deep into his X-Men run as Logan/Wolverine and had starred as Jean Valjean in Le Misérables, the previous year, but could have done with another role to show off his acting chops. Taking on the part of Keller Dover certainly did and he surpassed the performance he delivered in The Prestige with this movie. To date, only 2017’s bloody Logan has come close to the heights he delivers here.

Alternate ending was shot for Prisoners

Jake Gyllenhaal coming on-board immediately ups Prisoners from what would have been an eminently gripping watch to another level. His Detective Loki comes across as a man battling past demons and hell-bent on working all the hours God sends to lessen the world of some evil.

The original premise was to focus on the Jackman character but by sharing the story arc across both men, and backing them up with a stellar cast, an instant, claustropobhic classic was made.

The final scene of the movie [SPOILER ALERT] is one that perfectly captures the nuance of the piece, and you are left to piece together your own ending.

While both girls, at different junctures, are saved, Keller Dover finds himself captured and forced into a pit, near the end. His daughter has been rescued by Loki but we are left with the mystery of what happened to her father. Loki checks himself out of hospital and returns to the scene where both Anna and Joy had been imprisoned.

Dover, who has been underground and alone for a stretch, tries to alert Loki to his presence with a whistle that belongs to his daughter. Loki is almost about to walk away cwhen he hears this faint whistling. It stops then is heard again and the cameras focus on Loki’s face as the screen turns to black.

There was an alternative ending shot, which involved the very clear-cut scene of Loki finding Dover in that pit, but it was thankfully left where it was.

10 years on, this is still an impactful, absorbing film. Just about everyone involved, from major to supporting cast and crew, emerges with credit and we all grip our loved ones that bit tighter.

The film began streaming on Netflix, in 2023, and viewers took to social media to share their thoughts on it.

“Prisoners is the best movie on Netflix and it ain’t CLOSE,” one person put. A second said: “Prisoners on Netflix must watch!! Gave me anxiety the entire movie.”

“Dang Prisoners was really good on Netflix, kinda reminds me of lovely bones,” a third wrote. A fourth viewer penned: “WHAT. A. FILM. Just so freaking good. Has some of the best acting I’ve seen in a movie ever. PERIOD.”

Prisoners is also available to stream on Prime, Film Four+ and on the Sky Store.

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