The main articles for this category are Prison film and List of prison films.
See also the categories Films set in prison and Prison television series
Prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Film genre: This genre category is for those films whose narrative elements primarily are constructed from prison elements. Film setting: For films whose story, action, and/or other environment takes place at least part in prison, use Category:Films set in prison. Filming location: If the place where some or all of the film is produced is in a prison, use the city, county, state, or other geographical location category of the prison.
|Pages in this category should be moved to subcategories where applicable. This category may require frequent maintenance to avoid becoming too large. It should directly contain very few, if any, pages and should mainly contain subcategories.|
This category has the following 9 subcategories, out of 9 total.
Pages in category "Prison films"
The following 17 pages are in this category, out of 17 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).
Prisoners is a 2013 American mystery crime thriller film.
When Keller Dover's daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts.
In rural Pennsylvania, Keller Dover, his wife Grace, their teenage son Ralph and young daughter Anna attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of their friends, Franklin and Nancy Birch, their teenage daughter Eliza and young daughter Joy. The four children go for a walk in the neighborhood and approach an RV that is parked outside a house nearby. There is music playing, which suggests there is somebody inside. After dinner, Anna and Joy go missing.
Detective Loki is informed and starts a search. He locates the RV, which is found parked at a gas station. As police surround the vehicle, the driver, Alex Jones, starts the vehicle and crashes into a nearby tree. He is subsequently arrested and taken away. Alex has the IQ of a 10-year-old, and appears confused when being questioned at the police station. His vehicle is searched by forensics but nothing is found relating to the girls. Pursuing other leads, Loki discovers a corpse in the basement of Patrick Dunn, a priest. Dunn admits that he killed the man because the man confessed he was "waging a war against God" and had killed 16 children and said that he would kill more.
As the search continues, Dover is informed that Alex has been released and attacks him outside the police station. Alex whispers to him, "They didn't cry until I left them." Since Loki won't re-arrest Alex, and Dover hears Alex singing the same ditty as Anna, Dover abducts him, locks him up in his late father's abandoned home and tortures him—with the help of a reluctant Franklin—to force him to talk. First he beats him, but Alex says nothing. Dover ties him up in the shower and uses plywood to enclose him in the dark. He adjusts the water so the shower is either scorching hot or freezing to further torture him.
At a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a suspicious hooded man, who flees when Loki approaches him. Later on, the man breaks into both families' houses but leaves without doing anything. Loki follows Dover to where Alex is being held prisoner but doesn't find him, as Dover fabricates a story about stopping over in the building so he's able to drink to ease his suffering without his wife knowing. A store clerk recognizes the hooded man from a composite drawing and reports him to Loki after seeing him buying children's clothing. The suspect, Bob Taylor, is later arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. Loki then finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children's clothing, including items belonging to the missing girls. They discover Taylor had himself been abducted as a child. At the police station, Taylor confesses to the abduction but during a physical altercation with Loki and two other officers, he snatches a gun and kills himself without revealing any more information. The police conclude that Taylor was a fantasist and had no involvement with the disappearances; he stole the clothes from the girls' homes and bloodied them with pig's blood to recreate abductions.
Dover continues to torture Alex, who incoherently talks about escaping from a maze. Dover visits Alex's aunt, Holly, who tells him that Alex is the way he is because he had an accident with snakes her husband kept as pets when he was younger. She also says that she and her husband were religious until their young son died of cancer. Back at the police station, Loki becomes frustrated with getting nowhere with the case until he matches a maze Taylor drew while in custody to the maze necklace worn by the man Patrick Dunn killed in his basement.
Suddenly, Joy Birch is found drugged but alive. Dover visits her in the hospital to ask for information. Her memories are confused but she mumbles, "You were there" to Dover. He then realizes that Joy may have heard his voice at the Jones's house when he visited Holly, and runs from the police. Loki searches for Dover at the apartment building and discovers Alex. Dover then goes back to the Jones's house to get information from Holly, but she pulls a gun on him. She explains that, before her husband left her, they abducted many children as part of their "war on God" to avenge their son's death. Alex was the first child they abducted, followed by Taylor. Alex just took the girls for a ride, and Holly decided to abduct them. Holly shoots Dover in the leg and imprisons him in a concealed pit in her yard, where he finds the police whistle belonging to his daughter.
Loki goes to the Jones's house to tell her that her nephew has been found. He finds a photograph of Holly's husband wearing the same maze necklace found on the body in the priest's basement, making him her missing husband. Loki finds Holly drugging Anna, and they exchange gunfire. Loki is wounded, and Holly is killed. Loki then rushes Anna to the hospital where she reunites with her mother. Alex, revealed to be Barry Milland in the newspaper, is reunited with his parents after surviving the torture. A day later, Loki returns to the Jones's house where the authorities have begun excavating the property. As the forensic investigators depart for the night, Loki hears Dover's labored blowing on the whistle (a plea for help) from the pit.
Prisoners (1929 film)
Prisoners is a 1929 American film produced by Walter Morosco and directed by William Seiter for First National Pictures. The screenplay was written by Forrest Halsey, based on the novel by Ferenc Molnar. Lee Garmes was the cinematographer.
It was released as a part-talking, part-silent feature with Corinne Griffith, James Ford, Bela Lugosi, Ian Keith, and Otto Matiesen. Lugosi, in his first talkie, played Brottos, the owner of a Vienna nightclub. Lugosi was very happy that his first sound film was set in Hungary (where he was born) and that the story was based on a Ferenc Molnar Hungarian novel. While Lugosi was off filming "Prisoners", he was temporarily replaced in the San Francisco "Dracula" stage play by one Frederick Pymm (who normally played Butterworth, the attendant).
The relatively short sound segment (most of the film is subtitled) picks up with the climactic trial sequence. Critics stated "Bela Lugosi makes a very European villain", but were disappointed that Griffith's character is sent off to prison at the end of the film while a "cold-blooded murderer (in one of the subplots) is kept from receiving his just punishment". Corinne Griffith (who was married to producer Morosco) later went on to become a movie producer herself, as well as a very successful novelist.
Riza Riga, a beautiful young showgirl has led a life of crime, but she wants to go straight. When she falls in love with attorney Nicholas Cathy, she plans to gain his attention by buying a beautiful new dress. But when she realizes she can't afford to buy it, she returns to crime. She steals some money and is caught redhanded, resulting in a criminal trial. Defense lawyer Cathy winds up defending the young girl and falls in love with her in the process. Lugosi as Brottos, the nightclub owner, lurks throughout the film in villainous fashion. In the end, Riza is found guilty and is sentenced to three months in jail, and Nicholas Cathy watches her as she is led off to prison, promising to wait for her faithfully.
- ^Bela Lugosi (Midnight Marquee Actors Series) by Gary Svehla and Susan Svehla (1995) ISBN 1-887664-01-7 (paperback)
- ^Bela Lugosi (Midnight Marquee Actors Series) by Gary Svehla and Susan Svehla (1995) ISBN 1-887664-01-7 (paperback)
- ^Richard Bojarski - The films of Bela Lugosi - Page 52 1980 SOUND FILMS : PRISONERS First National, 1929. Released as a part-talking, part-silent feature. Directed by William Seiter. With Corinne Griffith, James Ford, Bela Lugosi, Ian Keith, Julanne Johnston, Ann Schaeffer, Barton Hesse and Otto
- ^Bela Lugosi (Midnight Marquee Actors Series) by Gary Svehla and Susan Svehla (1995). pg. 1 . ISBN 1-887664-01-7
Prisoners (2013 film)
2013 film by Denis Villeneuve
Prisoners is a 2013 American thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve from a screenplay written by Aaron Guzikowski. The film has an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. It is Villeneuve's first English-language feature film.
The plot focuses on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search for the suspected abductor 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. The film was a financial and critical success, grossing US$122 million worldwide. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2013, and at the 86th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Cinematography.
In Pennsylvania, Keller Dover, his wife Grace, son Ralph, and daughter Anna celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends Franklin and Nancy Birch, and their daughters Eliza and Joy. The four children go for a walk, and Anna and Joy play on a parked RV. After dinner, the two go missing. Detective Loki responds to a police call that an RV matching the description is at the edge of the woods, 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 Father Patrick Dunn. Dunn admits to killing the man after he confessed to murdering 16 children for his "war on God".
The police captain releases Alex to his aunt, Holly. Convinced of Alex's guilt, Keller assaults him outside the police station, where Alex whispers to him, "they didn't cry until I left them". After Loki finds no proof of this, Keller kidnaps Alex. Along with a very reluctant Franklin, Keller begins to torture Alex 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 hears him and calls Loki, who learns while investigating 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.
At the police station, Taylor confesses, and Loki discovers he was abducted as a child. As Taylor draws detailed mazes, Loki assaults him and demands the location of the girls. Two other officers pull him off Taylor. During the struggle Taylor grabs an officer's gun and kills himself. Loki shows the Birch parents and Keller photos of the bloody clothes, and they identify several as Joy's and Anna's. Later Keller tells his son that they aren’t dead.
Keller continues torturing Alex, who cryptically talks about escaping from a maze. Keller visits Holly, learning that Alex's intellectual disability comes from a childhood accident involving the pet snakes her husband kept. While devoutly religious, Holly and her husband lost their faith after their son died of cancer, and adopted Alex as a way to cope.
Loki matches the maze pattern in Taylor's drawings to a necklace worn by the corpse in Dunn's house. At Taylor’s house, Loki learns that many of the bloody clothes were store-bought and soaked with pigs blood. Below a window outside the Dover house, Loki finds Taylor’s footprints and the same kind of sock Keller identified from Taylor’s house.
When the drugged Anna and Joy attempt an escape, Anna is caught while Joy gets away. Joy is found and hospitalized. When Keller grills a woozy Joy for information, she remembers little, but tells him, "you were there; it put tape on our mouths". He rushes out, realizing she saw him at Holly’s house, when he visited to apologize for assaulting Alex outside of the police station. Loki gives chase and travels to Keller's building expecting to find him, but instead finds Alex.
Keller goes to Holly’s, telling her, "I don’t want to have to hurt you", but she 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 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 Alex has been found. Seeing a photo of the late husband wearing the same maze necklace as the corpse in Dunn's basement, he searches for Holly, who is giving Anna an injection. Loki and Holly exchange gunfire, leaving Holly dead and Loki injured. Loki takes Anna to the hospital.
A recuperating Anna and Joy visit a bandaged Loki in his hospital room to thank him. Grace acknowledges that Keller will be sent to prison if he is found. Loki returns to Holly's house, where he faintly hears a whistle blowing.
Aaron Guzikowski wrote the script based on a short story he wrote, partially inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", involving "a father whose kid was struck by a hit and run driver and then puts this guy in a well in his backyard". After he wrote the spec, many actors and directors entered and exited the project, including actors Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio and directors Antoine Fuqua and Bryan Singer. Ultimately Guzikowski would credit producer Mark Wahlberg for getting the project on its feet, stating, "He was totally pivotal in getting the film made. That endorsement helped it get around." Principal photography began in Georgia in February 2013.
Prisoners premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival and was released theatrically in Canada and the United States on September 20, 2013. It was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA for substantial disturbing violent content and explicit images; after being edited, it was re-rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.Prisoners opened in North America on September 20, 2013, in 3,260 theaters and grossed $20,817,053 in its opening weekend, averaging $6,386 per theater and ranking #1 at the box office. After 77 days in theaters, the film ended up earning $61,002,302 domestically and $61,124,385 internationally, earning a worldwide gross of $122,126,687, above its production budget of $46 million.
On review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 81% based on 253 reviews, with a rating average of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote: "Ethical exploration or exploitation? In the end, I come down reservedly on the former side: the work done here by Jackman, Gyllenhaal, and especially Villeneuve is simply too powerful to ignore." Ed Gibbs of The Sun Herald wrote: "Not since Erskineville Kings, in 1999, has Hugh Jackman appeared so emotionally exposed on screen. It is an exceptional, Oscar-worthy performance."Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that Gyllenhaal was "exceptional" and that "Villeneuve takes his unflashy time building character and revealing troubled psyches in the most unlikely of places."
The film was a second runner-up for the BlackBerry People's Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, behind Philomena and 12 Years a Slave. Gyllenhaal received the Best Supporting Actor of the Year Award at the 2013 Hollywood Film Festival for his "truly compelling, subtly layered" performance as Detective Loki.
Reviews have not been all positive. Writing in The New Republic, David Thomson declared that the film was "weary after ten minutes" and furthermore "hideous, cruel, degrading, depressing, relentless, prolonged, humorless, claustrophobic, and a mockery of any surviving tradition in which films are entertaining". A mixed review came from Sheila O'Malley of RogerEbert.com, who gave the film 2.5 stars out of a possible 4. She wrote that Jackman's performance grew "monotonous" and that the film sometimes verged on pretentiousness, but was redeemed by a few excellent suspense sequences and Gyllenhaal's performance, whose "subtlety is welcome considering all the teeth gnashing going on in other performances".
Audiences polled by CinemaScore initially gave the film a grade "B+" on an A+ to F scale, but Warner Bros asked for a recount by the service and later said the film received a grade "A–".
Top ten lists
Prisoners was listed on various critics' top ten lists.
- 1st – Nigel M. Smith, Indiewire
- 2nd – Rex Reed, The New York Observer
- 5th – Justin Robar, BridgewatersFinest
- 6th – Kyle Smith, New York Post
- 7th – James Berardinelli, Reelviews
- 7th – Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- 9th – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Prisoners soundtrack, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, was released on September 20, 2013.
|1.||"The Lord's Prayer"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:31|
|2.||"I Can't Find Them"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||4:09|
|3.||"The Search Party"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:54|
|4.||"Surveillance Video"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||3:34|
|5.||"The Candlelight Vigil"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||5:10|
|7.||"The Tall Man"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:47|
|8.||"The Everyday Bible"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:23|
|9.||"Following Keller"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:11|
|10.||"Through Falling Snow"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:44|
|11.||"The Keeper"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:49|
|12.||"The Intruder"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||3:11|
|13.||"The Priest's Basement"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:48|
|14.||"The Snakes"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:51|
|15.||"The Trans Am"||Jóhann Jóhannsson||2:37|
- ^"PRISONERS (15)". E1 Films. British Board of Film Classification. September 13, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
- ^ abc"Prisoners (2013)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
- ^"Hugh Jackman to Star in Vigilante Thriller PRISONERS for November 2013 Release". Collider.com. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
- ^ abcGiroux, Jack. "Interview: The Back-to-Basics Brutality of 'Prisoners'". Retrieved 2017-07-28.
- ^Chitwood, Adam (2013-02-20). Production Begins on Denis Villeneuve’s Thriller PRISONERS, Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Collider, 20 February 2013. Retrieved from http://collider.com/production-begins-on-denis-villeneuves-thriller-prisoners-starring-hugh-jackman-and-jake-gyllenhaal/.
- ^Keogh, Joey (2015-11-18). "Not Quite Horror: Prisoners (2013)". Wicker Horror. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
- ^"Prisoners (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
- ^"Prisoners (2013)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2020-05-06.
- ^Orr, Christopher (September 20, 2013). "Prisoners: Moral Exploration or Exploitation?". The Atlantic.
- ^Travers, Peter (2013). 'Prisoners' Review. RollingStone.com. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/prisoners-20130919.
- ^ abFeinberg, Scott (September 23, 2013). "Jake Gyllenhaal to Receive Acting Honor at Hollywood Film Awards (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- ^Thomson, David (2013). 'Prisoners' and the Rotten State of Hollywood. NewRepublic.com. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from https://newrepublic.com/article/114814/prisoners-reviewed-david-thomson.
- ^O'Malley, Sheila (2013). Prisoners review. RogerEbert.com. Retrieved on 2017-01-27 from http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/prisoners-2013.
- ^Pamela McClintock (October 18, 2013). "CinemaScore in Retreat as Studios Turn to PostTrak". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
- ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-01-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- ^"2013 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic.
- ^IndieWire Staff (December 25, 2013). "Indiewire's Editors and Bloggers Pick Their Top 10 Films (and In Some Cases TV Shows) of 2013".
- ^"Catalog: Audio/Visual – Winners". Key Art Awards. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- ^Giardina, Carolyn (February 15, 2014). "Dallas Buyers Club, Bad Grandpa Win at Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- ^"Prisoners Soundtrack". SoundtrackMania.com. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
- ^"Prisoners Soundtrack". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
Wiki prisoners movie
Denis Villeneuve’s gut-wrenching and captivating suspense thriller is not just a movie to entertain a theatre. It’s a test deciding the significance of persistence, resilience, and sacred morality in life. Villeneuve’s first attempt at an English-language feature forces its characters to go deep down into themselves and question what it takes for them to denounce their morals and values.
The 2013 release gathers its base from detective thrillers like Se7en, Zodiac, The Silence of the Lambs, and the TV miniseries True Detective. Still, it gradually unfolds to be much bigger and more effective than most of the films of the genre. Detective thriller films were earlier filmed as a noir-gangster cinema with a law enforcement official solving a murder mystery based on gathered clues and his/her ability to decode them. Added elements of mystery, such as unsolvable puzzles, made the film more gripping and suspenseful.
However, Villeneuve takes a step further with Prisoners. The comparisons mentioned above focus on a hardcore detective-killer chase and on the crime-solving abilities of the cops (while they overcome the horrors they induce during their investigations). On the other hand, Prisoners puts the protagonist (in this case, the victim and not the cop) in the mainframe while dealing with the mental instability caused by the trauma he has experienced. What feels like a kidnapping story turns out to be a very detailed and in-depth study of individual spirituality and morality. A series of revelations where the protagonist struggles to differentiate between the evil and the good. Every character battles their instincts and guts, repeatedly failing to reach a conclusion, eventually becoming “prisoners” to themselves and each other.
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a religious and disciplined carpenter residing with his family, which includes his wife Grace (Maria Bello), son Ralph (Dylan Minnette), and daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich). On Thanksgiving, the Dovers are invited to their friends, Franklin and Nancy Birch’s (Terrence Howard & Viola Davis) home.
When their daughters Anna and Joy go missing the very same day, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned on the case. A mentally challenged Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is brought into custody as a suspect but is released on lack of evidence. Convinced that Alex is responsible, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands and abduct Alex to force the truth out of him. As Keller moves to torture Alex in desperation, Loki fights within himself to solve the case as he runs out of leads and suspects.
The Ending, Explained
Prisoners has been constructed very thoroughly, with bits and pieces falling right into place to unravel the real truth, making the 153 minutes’ run-time pretty seamless. It gives an ambiguous but satisfying closure to its characters’ arcs and keeps the viewers engaged through every frame and dimension.
The ending of Prisoners is the subject of quite a lengthy debate on the internet, filled with the opinions of theorists and film enthusiasts, mostly focusing on the last mysterious thirty-seconds; however, the ending doesn’t start there.
Part I: Keller Finding the True Abductor
When the police find Joy, she tells Keller that she heard him when she was kept imprisoned. Keller immediately realizes that Holly Jones (Melissa Leo, in another stellar performance) has his daughter Anna in captivity. As soon as Keller realizes, he runs off to Holly Jones’s house. On the other hand, Detective Loki runs to Keller’s old house, where he’s keeping Alex as a prisoner.
When confronting Holly, she holds Keller at gunpoint and asks him to get into a pit where she’d kept his daughter earlier. She shoots him in the leg, and he crawls into the pit, where he finds his daughter’s red whistle he gave her as a tool to cry for help.
It is revealed that Holly was a devout Christian until her son died of cancer. She then, along with her husband, started kidnapping kids as a “war against Gods”. She believed taking innocent kids would turn parents against faith in God, making Him vulnerable.
This part of the ending focuses on the death of Keller’s faith in God and an instant renewal. Holly and her husband turned to Nihilism (rejection of all religious values) and decided to convert others like themselves who were suffering due to their children’s loss.
Keller, throughout the film, loses his faith in God as he tortures Alex for information. He denounces all belief and his faith by giving up his moral values. A man who doesn’t even enter someone’s house unless he’s invited suddenly becomes this emotionless torturer of a young soul. But, at the moment in the pit, he finds his daughter’s whistle (which he later uses as a cry for help), which apparently restores his faith in his morals as that whistle is the light of hope (symbolized by a flash of torch on his face) bestowed upon him by the almighty.
Part II: The Maze and Loki’s Realization of the Truth
Loki is the most practical personality of all the characters in the movie. He has been brought up in an orphanage, has seen his fair share of struggle, and seems agnostic. He has religious tattoos all-over, but his belief in religion is overpowered by his belief in evidence, practicality, and analysis of the events, just what a cop should be like.
Loki is troubled by a maze, which he believes is the path to Anna and Joy. The maze symbolizes Loki’s troubles in solving the case. Every move he makes results in failure and does not help him reach a valid lead or hint to the girls. He’s himself trapped in a maze, chasing down the three suspects and getting nothing out of them.
In this scene, after finding Alex, he goes to inform Holly of his abduction by Keller. He sees the maze locket in a picture of her husband, realizing that it was her and her husband who abducted all those kids, finally completing the maze. He goes after Holly in the other room, where she finds her injecting some poison in Anna. He points a gun at her and asks her to raise her hands. Instead, she shoots at him, grazing his head with the bullet, while Loki shoots her dead in retaliation.
That’s where he solves the maze. Not only does he solve the case, but he also brings justice to the other kids whom Holly tortured (including Alex, who is later revealed to be Barry Milland, another child she took 26 years ago). As a cop, his conscience is partly cleared, and he is out of the puzzle, but he still has to save Anna.
Part III: Saving Anna
Villeneuve has his reasons to film an entire sequence where Loki drives rashly to the hospital to save Anna. This scene somehow completes the character arc of Loki. Throughout the film, Loki’s belief has lain in his persistence and expertise as a cop, which has led him to solve every case he has been handed. But this particular case has not only shattered his belief system, but it has also haunted him. In the film, it is obvious that there is some internal anguish or anger Loki carries, but he never lets it take a toll on his work.
But Anna’s case has put him on the edge of a breakdown, which he can’t afford; it might make him unstable and lose sanity. So he puts everything he has into it, despite his injury, and rushes to the hospital. You can see the haste, the pain in his eyes as he mutters, “please don’t die” with teary eyes to Anna in the car. Fortunately, Anna is saved, and so is Loki’s conscience and his belief system.
Part IV: Keller Survives?
By this time, it has been a few days since Anna was saved. Keller is missing (in reality, he’s still trapped in the pit since Holly Jones put him there). The investigation into the other missing children is on. Loki supervises Holly’s property’s excavation, but the crew says that the ground is too frozen to finish the job. Loki lets the crew go and stands there in silence. Suddenly, he hears a whistle. Keller is alive and is blowing his daughter’s red whistle for help. Loki hears it and shrugs it off, but as the whistle’s sound amplifies, Loki realizes something is off, and then the camera cuts to black. The End.
Whether Keller is alive or not is left ambiguous. Throughout the film, Keller tortures an innocent kid, acting above God and faith. Will he survive? Has God really forgiven him for what he did? Does he deserve a second chance at his faith? Answering these questions reveal whether he survives or not. The entire film takes roots from Christianity, and hence, the climax depends on the same.
In my opinion, Holly Jones was the Devil, Satan acting against God. Keller was a devotee who was turned away from God by the Devil. Loki is God’s Angel, who saved the innocent and destroys the evil. At this moment, the devotee is stranded, and God has put his angel right by his side. If he has really forgiven Keller, he will make his angel save him.
From the sequence, given Loki’s reaction to the whistle, one can hope that Keller survives. But that was never the point of the film. As I said earlier, Prisoners matters to the viewers in many ways, preaching life lessons. And whether Keller survives or not isn’t a concern. Yet, despite all that, I personally would like to believe that Loki does find him and saves him, giving the devout another chance at faith and morals.
Prisoners has been woven perfectly. Every scene has a deeper meaning, and the way Villeneuve connects the dots in his direction is beyond conventional filmmaking. He explores Christian faith through the characters and puts that faith to a stern test. He explores the battle between good and evil, chaos and peace, persistence, and moral degradation. And there are characters crossing paths to get to one ulterior motive. The ending itself is a reflection of these battles. Loki has won his battle with his sheer commitment to finish the evil. But was Keller’s negligence towards his own values right, given the circumstances? Will he emerge as a winner with his restored faith (as he finds the whistle)? That’s for an individual to decide.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.
Decoding the Symbolic Ending of Prisoners (2013)
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Decoding the Symbolic Ending of Prisoners: The art of evoking suspense, while keeping viewers at the edge-of-their-seats, is an intricate one. In order to craft a compelling crime-thriller in an era saturated with the genre’s cyclical clichés, one needs to master narrative pace and visual storytelling, along with soundscapes that heighten cinematic catharsis.
No one does this better than Denis Villeneuve, the visionary Quebecois director who emerged into the limelight with his critically-acclaimed, monochrome drama, Polytechnique(2009) and revelatory war-thriller, Incendies(2010). However, it was his 2013 English-language debut, Prisoners, that revealed Villeneuve as a master of suspense – it is a plot laden with moral perplexities, religious symbolism, and complex characters, who are trapped in their inner worlds that are alarmingly Kafkaesque.
Today, we will unravel the rich symbolic fabric that runs throughout Prisoners. Needless to say, MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Plot Overview – Prisoners
Set in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, featuring quaint, almost-empty streets and alleyways lined with birch trees, the film zeroes in on two families, whose lives are (at least, initially) characterized by a sort of pre-world insulation against the perils of the world-at-large. The opening shot features Kelly Dover (Hugh Jackman), on a deer-hunting trip with his teenage son, Ralph (Dylan Minette), setting the tone of Prisoners right from the first frame – life is a hunt, in which, you’re either the predator or the prey.
We witness Dover (a carpenter by profession), stock his basement with emergency provisions that could potentially outlast an apocalypse. A survivalist and devout upholder of religious faith, Dover’s ever-preparedness for the worst is rooted in his desire to protect his family – his wife, Grace (Maria Bello), Ralph, and 6-year old Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) – from potential harm. However, things take a murkier turn when Anna, along with 7-year old Jenny, daughter of family friends Nancy (Viola Davis) and Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), vanish after a trip across the street in search of Anna’s red whistle – a symbolic Chekov’s Gun that returns to haunt Dover in the film’s final moments.
Enter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), introduced in an early, noir-addled shot, having dinner alone at a Chinese diner, while heavy rain assaults the window panes. The aura of bleak ennui is heightened when Loki detains a possible suspect for the kidnapping case, Alex (Paul Dano), a socially-inept, mentally challenged man, and the owner of the RV, outside which, the girls were last seen. Then on, the plot unravels in ways that are visceral, with the stakes being too high – Dover and Loki follow divergent paths in the pursuit of the missing girls. While Loki’s relentless determination hinges upon following the trail of tangible evidence, Dover acts purely out of fatherly instinct, with a sense of conviction and retribution that feels justified and morally-conflicting at the same time.
Navigating the Labyrinth of Symbols
In order to understand the ending better, it is crucial to analyse the symbolic underpinnings of the narrative, and the events that lead up to the climactic denouement. Aaron Guzikowski’s script for Prisoners is loosely-based on Edgar Allan Poe’s seminal short story, The Tell-Tale Heart (1843), which explores themes of guilt, sin, repentance, and paranoia, albeit within the context of Gothic horror.
The heart of Prisoners’ symbolic labyrinth is a semantic/metaphorical maze, featured as a critical plot point, especially in the act of violence against children. The Maze is a prison of the mind, rife with false starts, red herrings, and dead ends. It is a symbol of enslavement and oppression, as highlighted in the case of troubled and somewhat-unhinged Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), another potential suspect and victim of child abuse, who shoots himself mid-interrogation. The maze is literally unsolvable, as it is merely an instrument for torture and subjugation, used by Alex’s aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo), who is revealed to be the psychopathic child-abductor all long.
Faith, or lack thereof, is a propeller for character motivations in Prisoners. Dover, armed with his faith in God and the mercurial wrath of a distressed parent, chooses violence, brutally torturing Alex in the process, with catastrophic consequences. On the other hand, Loki’s faith lies in his level-headed sleuthing, backed by a proven track record of excellence. Behind Loki’s stoic demeanour, is an anguished man, brimming with emotions of trauma and shame of his own. Both men are crippled by their ineptitude in carrying out their versions of justice, being prisoners of their own faith. While Dover plays judge, jury, and executioner, mired in guilt, spiritual turmoil, and dwindling faith, Loki, with his Freemason ring, occult-tinged tattoos, and obsessive persistence, reaches the heart of the maze and slays the Minotaur.
The Ending – Does Loki Manage to Rescue Dover?
During the climactic final moments of the film, Dover is drugged, wounded, and imprisoned in an underground pit by Holly, which is hidden by a car in her driveway. While the audience is treated to the heart-thumping confrontation between Loki and Holly, in which the detective manages to shoot the child-killer and save Anna, Dover’s fate seems uncertain, trapped as he is, in a literal prison, left only with his daughter’s red whistle, a symbolic culmination of his anguished psyche.
However, despite saving the day, Loki returns to the crime scene, even after the forensics team leaves empty-handed – a reaffirmation of his hamartia, a mind that lingers on unanswered questions, on tentative loose ends. While Loki stands near the driveway, unbeknownst to Dover’s presence in the pit, the last 30-seconds of the masterfully-taut film finally implodes with frantic anxiety. Right then, Chekov’s Gun, or Anna’s red whistle, goes off – first, a faint, cry-for-help, which Loki initially brushes off – then transforming into a steady, yet frenzied rhythm. As realization dawns on Loki’s face, the camera cuts off.
By ending the film right before this moment, Villeneuve proves himself, yet again, as a maestro of perfect storytelling. Throughout Prisoners, we are witnesses to Loki’s compulsive persistence and Dover’s survivalist resilience, which eventually pay off in the film’s final moments. Detective Loki has heard the whistle go off, and owing to his nature, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he will rescue Dover from the pit. The whistle transforms into a ray of momentary hope, only momentary, as it is most likely that Dover will go to jail for his crimes against Alex (incidentally, Dover’s father was a prison guard, one of the film’s many metaphorical ironies).
Related Read to Prisoners (2013): Every Denis Villeneuve Film Ranked
Instead of playing out a hackneyed resolution, Villeneuve caps the thriller off at the perfect moment, as a result of which, we, the audience, continue to linger upon the fate of Dover, even after the credits roll. It is difficult not to speculate what lies ahead for Dover, now that his family is safe, yet he, a broken man, plagued by sin and repentance, does not have the luxury to stick around the ones he is so fiercely protective of. The ending instils a sense of lingering anxiety in us, a sense of morbid curiosity, which is exactly what Villeneuve and Guzikowski are aiming for. This way, the narrative assumes a life of its own, living in our minds, branching off into divergent paths, creating a unique labyrinth in its own right.
Prisoners is a carefully-paced, intelligently-crafted crime thriller, with landscapes (created by the wonderful Roger Deakins) that bleed with nihilistic bleakness, imparting a haunting sense of eeriness throughout. What makes Prisoners a notch-above competent thriller is its ending – without dialogue or further exposition, the metaphors speak for themselves, as they often do, in art, and in life.
Prisoners (2013) Links – Wikipedia
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Prison (1987 film)
1987 horror film directed by Renny Harlin
Prison is a 1987 horror film directed by Renny Harlin and starring Viggo Mortensen, Tom Everett, Kane Hodder, Lane Smith, and Tommy Lister. It was filmed at the Old State Prison in Rawlins, Wyoming, with many residents on the cast and crew.
In 1964, inmate Charlie Forsythe of Creedmore Prison was executed via electric chair for a murder he did not commit.
When Creedmore Prison is reopened after thirty years, Charlie Forsythe returns from the afterlife to exact revenge on Ethan Sharpe (Lane Smith) – the officer who stood by as Forsythe was executed.
Inmate Burke (Viggo Mortensen) and all other inmates soon realize that they will all be slaughtered unless Forsythe is allowed to repay his long-standing debt.
The film was shot on location at the former Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, Wyoming. The facility had been vacant since its closure in 1981 after the construction of a new State Penitentiary, and was made freely available for film production after producer Irwin Yablans approached the State during a search for abandoned prison facilities as the setting for a prison horror movie.
Because the facility was slated for demolition, little regard was given for its preservation, and the production crew was offered free license to make permanent, oftentimes destructive modifications as necessary. This included drilling a large passage through the prison's reinforced concrete perimeter wall, which was mocked up as a vehicle gate for the film.
A majority of the extras portraying prisoners were real-life inmates of the Wyoming State Penitentiary, including former stuntman Stephen E. Little, who was serving a sentence of manslaughter at the time. His SAG membership dues were paid and current, and he was cast in a speaking role as "Rhino."
The execution chamber shown in the film is the Penitentiary's original gas chamber, which replaced hanging after 1936 as the legal method of execution for condemned criminals in the State. The chamber was never used for electrocutions in reality.
The film was given a limited theatrical release in the United States by the Eden Distributing Company in March 1988. It grossed $354,704 at the box office.
The film was released in 1988 on VHS by New World Pictures. It had originally been released on DVD overseas, but not in the United States, save for bootlegs. However, on February 19, 2013, Shout! Factory released the first official Blu-ray Disc and DVD and the first through their new subdivision Scream Factory.