Thursday, October 24, 2013

Prisoners (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Is Captivating

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Should we torture prisoners of war? No, says international conventions. But what’s a little waterboarding if it gets results? That was the premise of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the mostly true story about the hunt for Bin Laden.

While you may disagree with that film’s conclusions, it took a position: That the end justifies the means.

Now we have “Prisoners,” a film that approaches torture with a degree of moral ambiguity. Not a film about war, but instead a domestic thriller about vigilantism.

In “Prisoners” -- now playing at Tropic Cinema -- we find two nice Pennsylvania families having dinner together on Thanksgiving. An average joe named Keller Dover and his wife Grace (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello), their neighbors Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), along with their kids, just enjoying some down time. But things spin out of control when their two daughters go out to play and don’t come back. An Amber Alert in the making.

The police are called and stern-faced Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) assures them he’ll get their daughters back. And before you know it, he has a suspect in custody, a mentally challenged loner in a van, a dork named Alex Jones (Paul Dano).

But when the police let Jones go for lack of evidence, Dover decides to take matters into his own hands. So he kidnaps the suspected kidnapper and sets out to force him to talk. Dover’s neighbor is horrified by this violent turn of events, but reluctantly acquiesces. It gets ugly.

C’mon, now. Don’t get squeamish. Wouldn’t you do anything to save your child? Even torture if it takes that to get the kidnapper to talk.

But what if you’re wrong? What if other suspects turn up? What if you’ve gone too far?

Maybe that’s the problem with moral ambiguity.

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