Prisoners Review: What does the ending of Prisoners mean?

Explicit and hidden meaning of the film Prisoners (2013). The plot and essence of the film Prisoners, meaning, explanation of the ending, similar movies.

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime, Detective

Year of production: 2013

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Actors: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis

tagline: “No time to waste”

Awards and nominations: In 2014, the film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Cinematography category.

Denis Villeneuve’s film Prisoners is not just a thriller about kidnapping. It is also a powerful philosophical drama. The meaning and essence of the film Prisoners are reduced to the opposition of good and evil, that is, to the eternal metaphysical problem.

What is the movie about

Brief description of the content of the film “Prisoners”. The action takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania. Two little girls, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, stumble upon a small van while walking and they really want to play there. However, Anna’s older brother, Ralph, strictly forbids the girls from approaching someone else’s van and takes them back to the house.

family from MinnesotaMaria Bello as Grace, Erin Gerasimovich as Anna, Hugh Jackman as Keller, Dylan Minnette as Ralph. Frame from the film.

The Dovers and Birches are neighbors and friends. In the evening they gather at the Birch home to celebrate Thanksgiving. By evening, the adults discover that the girls are missing. Anna Keller’s father, confident that his daughter went to visit a friend who had previously asked her to help find her favorite toy – a red whistle, comes to the Birche house. However, there are no girls.

The situation begins to heat up: no one has seen the girls and has no idea where they are. Ralph intervenes in the conversation of adults and informs Keller about the van, which the girls liked so much. Alarmed adults run outside and are horrified to discover the van is missing. Ralph describes the van as best he can, and Keller immediately calls the police.

Meanwhile, Detective Loki takes a message about a strange van and soon discovers it along with several officers. The driver tries to break through, but the police manage to detain him.

The driver’s name is Alex Jones. A guy diagnosed with mental retardation lives with his own aunt Holly. Alex assures the detective that he has not seen any girls. His van is searched and there is not a single piece of evidence that Anna and Joy were there.

Keller is convinced that Jones is involved in the kidnapping of his daughter. He is surprised by many things in the guy’s case (in particular, the fact that the mentally retarded has a driver’s license and famously drives a van) and he asks Loki not to let the suspect go. However, the detective has no evidence, and he is forced to hand over the guy from hand to hand to his aunt.

When Alex goes outside, he is greeted by an enraged Keller. The terrified young man throws out a strange phrase: “They didn’t cry when I got out of the van.” Alex is saved from lynching by the police and a little later, detective Loki assures the unfortunate father that there is no real evidence that he was involved in the disappearance of his daughter.

lynching of AlexFrame from the film.

Problems are brewing in Keller’s family: his hysterical wife accuses him of kidnapping Anna, and he, having handed her over to Ralph, decides to take the search for the girl into his own hands.

Loki continues his investigation, which leads him to the priest’s house. There, the detective discovers a secret passage to the basement. Going down there, he discovers the half-decayed corpse of an unknown person with a medallion in the form of a labyrinth – it is obvious that he died many years ago.

The detective begins to interrogate the priest. He tells him that in the basement is the body of the killer of sixteen small children. The killer confessed to the atrocities in confession, but did not repent of them, but rather was proud of them – he called his crimes “war against God.” He assured the reverend that he would soon commit several more murders, after which he stunned him, tied him up and left him to die in the basement.

Meanwhile, Keller tracks down Alex and, having kidnapped him, takes him to another house owned by him, after which he invites Joy Franklin’s father there. The man is sure that the young man is not mentally retarded at all – he just skillfully “turns on the idiot”. Franklin is scared: the kidnapping of a man threatens both of them with a serious term. However, Keller convinces him that while the police are mooing and not calving, they must act on their own – and the sooner the better.

Detective Loki finds another victim of a mysterious kidnapper: an elderly woman informs the police about her son Barry, who was kidnapped over twenty years ago and never found. In her opinion, the new kidnapping is a disastrous thing: the girls not only disappeared, they disappeared.

A little later, the inhabitants of the town came to support the Dover and Birche. One of the guests brought not a candle, like the others, but a soft toy. Noticing this, Loki tried to approach the guy, but he managed to escape.

Keller tries to get a confession out of Alex, but he is silent. Physical abuse does not bring Dover any pleasure: he is a believer and is simply trying to return his kidnapped daughter. The man does not notice that he is slowly turning into a monster himself: after all, the mentally retarded Alex is like a child …

Franklin, forced to become an accomplice, cannot stand it and tells his wife about what is happening. She asks Keller to take her to Alex and, seeing the exhausted young man, sincerely sympathizes with him. Thinking that her caress will get more from him, she unties his hands, but he suddenly pounces on her.

Jake GyllenhaalJake Gyllenhaal played Detective Loki, Hugh Jackman as Keller. Frame from the film.

Detective Loki finds out about the loss of Alex and guesses that this is the work of Keller. He almost discovers the kidnapped guy, but at that moment he is informed that the person who brought the toy has been found.

Loki comes to his house, detains him and discovers that the walls in the house of the new suspect are strangely covered with writing: the drawing resembles a maze. Also in the house are huge containers. Thinking that the missing children are there, the detective breaks them open one by one. A terrible find awaits him: bloody children’s clothes and live snakes. Loki invites both families to identify things, and the parents tearfully recognize them.

The suspect’s name is Bob Taylor and he also has some mental problems. He, like Alex, does not say a word, and only draws one labyrinth after another. The detective tries to force him to find out anything from him, a scuffle ensues, as a result of which Taylor dies.

Meanwhile, a discouraged Keller is trying to get Alex where to look for the girls: he directs him into a kind of labyrinth. The man goes to Alex’s aunt Holly for help.

Ending explanation

Towards the end, Loki learns that the blood on the things actually belonged to pigs. He also manages to find out that Taylor himself was kidnapped as a child and addicted to drugs, because of which his mind became clouded and, having learned about the disappearance of the girls, he decided that he was the kidnapper. The labyrinths he drew were very similar to those depicted in the book Chasing the Invisible Man. In the book, they led to a dead end.

Suddenly, the police find Joy. The girl is alive, but drugged. Apparently, she managed to escape. Keller and his wife visit her at the hospital. After talking a little with his daughter’s friend, the man suddenly understands what he needs to do, and again goes to Holly. It was a bad idea.

She was waiting for him. Pointing a gun at him, the old woman makes him drink a narcotic liquid and says that now he can probably find out where his girl is.

She says that, having lost her child many years ago, she became disillusioned with God and, by killing other children, decided in this way to take revenge on him – and at the same time make the grief-stricken parents also lose their faith. Alex, as it turned out, is not her nephew, but a child abducted many years ago – once his name was Barry …

Melissa LeoMelissa Leo played the role of Holly, Paul Dano as Alex. Frame from the film.

She drops a drug-stunned Keller into a pit, where he finds a red whistle.

Loki discovers Alex, frees him and arrives at Holly’s house. Finding the door of the house unlocked, he enters and finds on the table a photograph of a woman with a labyrinth medallion around her neck. The detective begins to search the house and finds Holly, who injects the unconscious Anna with a drug. Loki tells her to leave the baby alone, but the fighting old woman opens fire and easily injures the detective. He is forced to shoot her. After that, he takes Anna to the hospital and there he learns that Alex Jones, who disappeared more than 20 years ago, Barry Milland, has reunited with his family.

At the end of the film (a few days later), the detective returns to Holly’s house to investigate further and hears a strange whistle coming from the ground.

In general, the end of the film leaves a lot of questions. One of them is the notorious labyrinth, which appears so often in the film “Prisoners”. The answer to the labyrinth that Bob Taylor drew when he became sane is simple: it never existed. The guy remembered the labyrinth only because of the book that Holly gave him, like all captives …

The explanation for the ending, despite the open ending, is the simplest: most likely, Loki, having heard the whistle, will pull Keller out. Most likely, Dover will have to answer in court for the kidnapping and beating of Alex.

However, as the audience notes in their analysis, the final may have a different interpretation: the detective may decide that the whistle seemed to him, and then leave, leaving Keller, who has lost his strength, without help. In this case, we can talk about the rather ominous meaning of the ending of the movie “Prisoners”: if Loki ignores the whistle, Keller is destined to become another victim of the “maze”…

The meaning of the film

Despite the seeming simplicity of perception, the “Captors” are filled with religious symbols that carry a hidden meaning. Their decoding helps to better understand the director’s intention.

To understand the essence of the film “The Captives”, you need to learn that the main conflict of the picture is the antithesis of good and evil. This is manifested in the struggle of the Jones couple with God and his providence, in the confrontation between dark and light forces in the soul of the desperate Keller Dover, and also in the decision of the Birch family to keep silent about the kidnapping of Alex Jones and thereby contribute to Keller’s cruelty towards the unfortunate weak-minded young man.

The Jones family lost a son. The grief was so great that they also lost faith in God. The unfortunate Holly Jones decided to blame the Lord on the war – so she began to kidnap and kill children.

Her husband bred snakes. In the Christian tradition, this image is associated with the tempting serpent. Holly and her husband created a labyrinth for the captives. It symbolizes the chaos into which the Jones couple, with the help of manipulation and drugs, plunges the minds of children. The point is that children who want to return home must find a way out of this symbolic labyrinth. But what could this mean?

The labyrinth is a pagan symbol, known to us from the ancient Greek legend of the Minotaur. Its essence is opposed to Christian clarity and simplicity. A labyrinth is something that confuses a person, leading him away from the goal – or from God. The way out of the labyrinth is finding God.

The Jones couple does everything so that their victims cannot turn to the Creator and suffer from this. But if Holly’s husband, shortly before his death, tells the priest about his crimes, then she herself remains true to her terrible idea.

It is no coincidence that children and the feeble-minded Alex Jones are chosen as victims in the film “Prisoners”. They are innocent, like the lambs of God sent to the slaughter.

The last victims were not chosen by chance: one of the girls shows curiosity, looking into the van. This quality is known to have led to expulsion from paradise.

The struggle between good and evil is clearly manifested in the character of Keller. In his youth, he experienced psychological trauma: his father committed suicide. The man has always prepared his son for the fact that the worst can happen at any moment, which means you must always be on the alert. Willingness to fight is combined in Keller with religiosity, but not with faith. That is why, out of desperation, he is ready to commit lynching against the innocent. Repenting of his deed, however, he cannot read the prayer “Our Father” to the end …

pit with red whistleFrame from the film.

Keller’s placement underground is a reference both to the book of the prophet Jonah and to the plot about the resurrection of Lazarus: he was given three days to realize his mistakes and rise spiritually.

Captivity in the film is also a kind of symbol. This is not only a real deprivation of freedom, but also enslavement to evil, doubt and despair.

By the way, the original name “Prisoners” in English does not have specific gender. In a general sense, we are not talking about “Captured”, but about “Prisoners” – not only about the kidnapped girls or about Alex, but also about people who knew about his abduction, but were prisoners of their cowardice. And also about Holly Jones, who became a prisoner of her madness.

Similar films

Here are a few pictures that are similar to the movie “Prisoners” in meaning:

  • “Mystic River” (USA, Australia, 2003). Childhood friends try to investigate the murder of one of their daughters;
  • Zodiac” (USA, 2007). The film tells about a real maniac who was never caught;
  • Changeling (USA, 2008). The heroine loses her son. Soon the police return the boy to her, but it is not her child.

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