Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 46 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 46
  2. Negative: 1 out of 46
  1. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Sep 19, 2013
    100
    Exciting, terrifying, worrisome stuff saturates every second of Prisoners, holding you captive, keeping you guessing until the bitter end.
  2. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Sep 17, 2013
    100
    When it comes to thrillers, this one is as good as it gets. Not for the squeamish, but for anyone who loves movies, it’s too exhilarating to miss.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Sep 9, 2013
    100
    The thriller that's exciting, cathartic, and powerfully disturbing. Prisoners is that type of movie. It's rooted in 40 years of Hollywood revenge films, yet it also breaks audacious new ground.
  4. Reviewed by: Stephen Farber
    Aug 31, 2013
    100
    Prisoners can at times be a hard film to watch, but thanks to all the talent involved, it’s even harder to shake off.
  5. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Aug 31, 2013
    100
    A spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center.
  6. Reviewed by: Rodrigo Perez
    Aug 31, 2013
    91
    The picture is often graphic and pulls no punches in its disturbing violence, but its unflinching nature gives it a memorable sear that won't soon be forgotten.
  7. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 19, 2013
    90
    Prisoners is the kind of movie that can quiet a room full of casual thrill-seekers. It absorbs and controls your attention with such assurance that you hold your breath for fear of distracting the people on screen, exhaling in relief or amazement at each new revelation
  8. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Sep 16, 2013
    90
    Villeneuve has what I keep looking for in directors: a charged sense of the way the world actually works.
  9. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Sep 25, 2013
    89
    It's a veritable shoo-in for an Oscar nod this year, and one of the more disturbing films to come out of a major studio in ages.
  10. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Sep 30, 2013
    88
    Is torture ever justifiable? A twisty, compelling, brilliantly acted (if sometimes difficult to watch) thriller, Prisoners, asks this question not in the usual contemporary context — anti-terrorism — but instead as a gruesome option deployed as a response to every parent’s worst nightmare.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Sep 19, 2013
    88
    Prisoners is infused with a poetic intensity that's rare in American thrillers. The closest cinematic comparisons would be "Zodiac," "In the Bedroom" and "Mystic River."
  12. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Sep 19, 2013
    88
    The cast is remarkable. Five of the seven principal cast members own previous Oscar nominations.
  13. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Sep 19, 2013
    88
    Even with the stretched-out running time, Prisoners is one of the most intense moviegoing experiences of the year. You’ll never forget it.
  14. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Sep 19, 2013
    88
    Some will write off Prisoners as shameless exploitation. But like Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River," to which it's been compared, Prisoners is so artfully shaped and forcefully developed that objections fade.
  15. Reviewed by: William Goss
    Sep 5, 2013
    84
    Rarely a moment is ever wasted, a consequence ignored, and though the climax is a corker, the final shot is even better. Prisoners requires and rewards your attention in equal measure. Be ready.
  16. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Sep 1, 2013
    83
    Before all else, Villneuve's grim chronicle of the fallout when two young girls vanish in a small town succeeds at crafting one powerfully suspenseful moment after another.
  17. Reviewed by: Emma Dibdin
    Sep 25, 2013
    80
    A simmering pressure cooker of a thriller, Prisoners is an unforgiving but emotionally rewarding experience sustained by powerhouse performances, taut scripting and Villeneuve’s tonally assured direction.
  18. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Sep 19, 2013
    80
    There's a near-sacred history in Hollywood of non-U.S.- born directors providing fresh perspectives on America. Miloš Forman. Alfred Hitchcock. Ang Lee. Ernst Lubitsch. Billy Wilder. For Prisoners, a stress-inducing trip into child abduction, the director is Quebecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who gives us an American "hero" guaranteed to push many buttons, many times, and who might not have been allowed to be quite so awful, under a different director's lens.
  19. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Sep 19, 2013
    80
    Dano, Bello, Howard, Davis and Leo — the last nearly unrecognizable — are equally strong. Villeneuve, whose last film was the Oscar-nominated “Incendies,” uses them all perfectly, and Prisoners works best when it’s not what you thought it was going to be. But even on familiar ground, it’s hard to let go of.
  20. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Sep 18, 2013
    80
    Oh, and the title? It could be an apt description for almost any character in the movie at one time or another. The satisfaction is in finding out who, if anyone, will be set free.
  21. Reviewed by: Paul MacInnes
    Sep 6, 2013
    80
    In his first English language film, Quebeçois director Denis Villeneuve has produced a masterful thriller that is also an engrossing study of a smalltown America battered by recession, fear and the unrelenting elements.
  22. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    Subtly crafted and compelling, but it suffers from a case of split personality.
  23. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    As gripping as it is grueling, with performances that swing for the fences and a central mystery that seems an unresolvable tangle of knots until those knots come undone in a somewhat forced final act.
  24. Reviewed by: Peter Hartlaub
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    It's difficult to remember a recent movie that soared so high, before plummeting with a series of bad story choices. But the end result is still a strong piece of cinema, a failure only if you dwell on what might have been.
  25. Reviewed by: David Hiltbrand
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    A devastating psychological thriller, Prisoners pulls us deep into our worst fear: the Amber Alert. Then it holds us under.
  26. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    Roger Deakins, probably the best living cinematographer never to win an Oscar (he’s 0-for-10), was behind the camera. So the picture never lets us down visually, even when the story occasionally strays.
  27. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 19, 2013
    75
    Some will take it and like it, all the way to the heart of darkness. Others may feel they've been jacked with, manipulated. Villeneuve collaborates with unusual sensitivity with his actors. The script operates on one level; the interpreters on another, higher level.
  28. 75
    Prisoners is never less than engrossing. It’ll keep you guessing. It’s just too bad that the last thirty minutes make us feel like the prisoners, here.
  29. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Sep 19, 2013
    70
    Don’t get me wrong, I like trash just fine, and the twisty-loo, triple-abduction plot of Prisoners certainly kept me watching to the end. (You’ll figure out some of screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski’s plot twists, but not all of them.) It’s the imitation-David Fincher pretentiousness that gets on my nerves.
  30. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Sep 18, 2013
    70
    What makes Prisoners more potent than its oft-implausible mystery should allow is the way Villeneuve lingers over the textures of a terrible event.
  31. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Sep 20, 2013
    67
    For all its pretensions and intermittent power, is essentially high-grade claptrap.
  32. Reviewed by: M. E. Russell
    Sep 19, 2013
    67
    At its best, Prisoners dwells on the ways the characters affected by the case are held mentally captive -- by conviction, compulsion, procedure, skewed beliefs, rage, and grief -- and how each character's blind spot and/or maniacal focus furthers or frustrates the search for the girls.
  33. Reviewed by: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
    Sep 18, 2013
    67
    It makes for a compelling viewing experience, thanks to Villeneuve’s formal chops and the uniformly strong performances.
  34. Reviewed by: Sheila O'Malley
    Sep 20, 2013
    63
    Aspects of Prisoners are effective, but for the most part it's rather ridiculous (despite the fact that it clearly wants to be taken super-seriously), and there's an overwrought quality to much of the acting.
  35. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Sep 19, 2013
    63
    Too bad, then, that after two hours of such relentless tension, Prisoners starts revealing its secrets to progressively hokier effect.
  36. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzalez
    Sep 15, 2013
    63
    Possibly year's most immaculate-looking drivel, a prismatically shot whodunit abundant in red herrings, but lacking in moral contemplation.
  37. Reviewed by: Dan Jolin
    Sep 23, 2013
    60
    A decent, cogent, greyly atmospheric thriller with something to say about War-On-Terror America.
  38. Reviewed by: Ian Buckwalter
    Sep 20, 2013
    60
    Loki is a skilled creation, but lacking that sense of why, it's hard not to think of him as an artistic construct rather than a character. The same goes for Prisoners, a work of impressive craftsmanship that winds up making us think too much about how it was fashioned rather than what it has to say.
  39. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Sep 17, 2013
    60
    The uniformly showy performances (Acting with a capital ‘A’) are what do in Prisoners more than anything.
  40. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Sep 9, 2013
    60
    This is the rough cut of a good movie, and a splendid opportunity wasted.
  41. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Sep 19, 2013
    50
    Try as it might to entertain serious notions of manhood, evil and original sin, Prisoners works most effectively as Hollywood hypocrisy at its most sleek, efficient and meretricious. It’s stylish, high-minded hokum.
  42. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Sep 18, 2013
    50
    It is well acted bunk, led by Hugh Jackman's righteous raging as the father of a missing girl, abducting a suspect (Paul Dano) to pummel and scald a confession from him. If only solving the case and ending this movie sooner was that simple.
  43. 50
    Villeneuve is trying like hell to elevate what turns out to be a dumb genre picture.
  44. Reviewed by: Amy Nicholson
    Sep 17, 2013
    40
    Torn between making sense and arguing that the world itself makes no sense, Prisoners is a captive of its own ambitions.
  45. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    Sep 6, 2013
    40
    Flexing some of that Jean Valjean resolve, but with a payload of untrammelled, Wolverine-like rage behind it, Jackman comes closest to shouldering the movie, without ever seriously threatening to make it work.
  46. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Sep 19, 2013
    38
    It’s preposterous schlock masquerading as art.
User Score
8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 493 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 10 out of 131
  1. Sep 21, 2013
    1
    I absolutely hated this movie.
    Judging by the critic reviews, it only got a high score from them because it's pretty and the style is
    interesting, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that all the user scores are so high.

    I will admit that it's a visually pleasing movie, but not only does the mediocre plot drag on forever, it also relies on cheap tricks (like the plot "twist" near the end) and doesn't fill the expectations built up in the trailer (the truth behind the story was completely unbelievable)

    And even though most people seem to think the characters are well thought through, all I saw was tropes. Hugh Jackman's character is the ruthless badass who'd do anything to protect his child, his wife is a stereotypical mother, doing nothing but crying for her lost child.
    Detective Loki is the excellent detective with no social life, and the villains are your cookie cutter Hollywood serial killers.
    Joy's parents seemed to be the only characters who weren't one dimensional, yet they had some of the least screen time.

    One could argue that it's more about the message than the story itself, but an interesting message doesn't make up for a drab plot and poor character design.
    Full Review »
  2. Sep 20, 2013
    10
    Prisoners is a deep dark film, with a first rate cinematography, breathtaking performances, riveting editing, incredible dialog, and pretty much one of the best movies of all year. What makes this movie distinctive, is the opening silent sequence, the atmosphere its self, it is chilling and a gripping thriller, it is a tense talk film that kept me at the edge of my seat. It is maybe the best performance ever coming from Hugh Jackman, he is magnificent in this movie, the villains and the good ones, everyone in this movie has something wrong with them, and this is one of the things that I loved in this film. Prisoners is one of the best movies all year and highly recommended, I loved Prisoners. Full Review »
  3. Sep 22, 2013
    3
    ...Terrible...First off, this was produced by Mark Wahlberg so you would think it would be, at the very least, mildly badass. Plus it has Hugh Jackman, Jake Gillyhall, the Black Guy from Ironman, and the kid from There Will Be Blood plays an assburger.
    That aside, the movie starts off like any other kidnap movie. Happy family, parents not paying attention, rapist scoops up the goods. Pretty standard. The suspect gets off clean, the police dont even contemplate anyone else as a possibility and Hugh Jackman takes justice into his own hands. Which sounds exciting right? Wrong. The plot proceeds to drag on for 2 and a half hours of blatantly cut and dry detective work, some moralistic struggles with Jackman and the mom giving Wolverine crap for not protecting them better. Which pisses me off cuz at least HE didnt spend the first week after their kid got snatched up drowning his sorrows in Zoloft and Puffs Plus Tissues. All that aside, this team of Oscar Award winners couldn't make up for the horrendous plot. Kinda makes me wonder if Jackman actually read the script or if that ability was taken with his kid. In the end, all I could feel was that the real Prisoners in this story was the audience themselves.
    Full Review »