As we all know, human beings don't need bars to be imprisoned. The theme is so often used that I didn't expect much from the new film "Prisoners." I went because Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective who, of course, is a tormented soul. He even has the facial twitch. We find him eating alone in a diner on Thanksgiving.
"Prisoners" turns out to be suprisingly good. All the Gyllenhaal character Dectective Loki has is his work. His new assignment is that two six-year-old girls go missing.
The parents of one of the girls - Anna - are trapped by their ideas. His is his religion. Hers is the belief that her husband will protect her and the children. The father - Keller - goes mad with rage and kidnaps and beats the retarded man - Alex - he suspects to be the miscreant. For days he tortures him. After a while he gets the other father to join in. But the latter has no demons and won't continue going along. He even confides the scheme to his wife.
Meanwhile the real criminal is Alex's supposed aunt Holly. After she and her husband lost their own child to cancer, they decided to destroy other people's faith in God by taking their children. Like Keller they usually turn away from God and often go mad. Keller connects the dots and goes over to Holly's house to find his daughter. The other child got loose and ran away. Holly wounds him and imprisons him in a pit. We don't know if he is rescued. However, his daughter is saved in the nick of time by Loki.
Likely this is not a film which will win an Academy Award. But there are plenty of takeaway thought pieces. For example, revenge winds up destroying the person out to even the score. Another lesson is that adults have to take care of themselves. Keller's wife takes to her bed on prescribed downers, neglecting her son and not aware of what her husband may be up to. Meanwhile the other mother, more self-reliant, copes.
A subtheme in "Prisoners" is how boozing can take the man. Keller, who hasn't drunk for more than nine years, starts up again. The neighborhood sex molester, a priest, is also a boozer. We meet him drunk on the floor. When Loki goes down the basement he finds the body of a child kidnapper the priest murdered. It turns out to be Holly's husband who wanted to confess his sins. Those in 12-step programs have the takeaway that alcohol is never a solution.