If Prisoners doesn't explore Christian ideas as fully as it might have given its imagery and dialogue, it remains compelling. Villeneuve coolly orchestrates several suspenseful sequences and subtly uses sound to create heightened tension. Gyllenhaal, who starred in an even better serial-killer drama, Zodiac, is sympathetic in his dogged, frustrating race against time, knowing that each day the girls are missing increasing the chances that they’ll never be seen again. Oscar winner Melissa Leo (Oblivion) notches another strong supporting performance as Alex’s aunt, protective and tough when she needs to be.

A dark, grim film, Prisoners is also a film with prayers spoken aloud, beseeching a Heavenly Father for help. The story's religious angle—which drops out of the story for long stretches—moves toward center stage as the film hurtles toward its suspenseful conclusion.

Though the words from Job 5:7 heard early in the film explain man's predicament in this life, the subsequent verses point to something else that’s also true, yet more hopeful: "But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted" (5:8-9).

It’s to Prisoners' great credit that the film understands verses 8 and 9 as well as verse 7. Prisoners puts the audience through the wringer, but it doesn’t leave them wallowing in darkness and depravity. Instead, it reminds us that God looks out for the helpless (Job 5: 18-19).

When was the last time a mainstream thriller left you pondering such things?

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; multiple uses of the f-word; numerous uses of the s-word, a-word and other foul language.
  • Drinking/Smoking: Liquor bottles are shown several time, and Keller falls off the wagon; a priest is shown to be an alcoholic; prescription drugs are taken.
  • Sex/Nudity: Pornography discovered in a home.
  • Violence/Crime: A deer is shot and killed; an RV drives into a tree; it’s said that nine sex offenders live within the area of interest in the kids’ disappearance; a corpse is discovered; discussion of a serial killer’s confession; vigilante justice includes a suspect who is beaten beyond recognition and tortured; gunshots; child kidnappings; a man wields a shard of glass as a weapon; breaking and entering; photos of corpses and bloody clothes; a pig’s head in a sink; suicide.
  • Religion/Morals/MarriageCrosses appear prominently in the film, especially early on, when a cross is seen dangling from a car’s rearview mirror, as a tattoo on a hand, and on a necklace; Lord's prayer is said before a hunting kill; the disappearance of their children strains both Keller’s and Franklin’s marriages; Franklin says he “whups” his kids; a woman says her husband walked out and didn’t come back; a priest is shown as an alcoholic responsible for a man’s death; we hear a radio preacher quote Job 5:7; a man is said to wage a war with God; religious icons and images; prayers ask forgiveness, protection; a woman says she used to “spread the good word” before tragedy befell her; talk of demons; a man thanks God for a friend who “did what he had to do,” and calls him a "good man."

*Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

**This Review First Published 9/20/2013