Prisoners Plot Summary Revealed…CAUTION SPOILERS BELOWPosted: September 22, 2013
In My Humble Opinion: I didn’t have high expectations when I first saw previews for this movie. Now that I’m reading some of the reviews and see that it’s doing well, I’ll definitely be checking it out. Read at your own peril…ENJOY!!!
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), a deeply religious man who runs a failing carpentry business, attends a Thanksgiving dinner with his family at the house of neighbor and family friends the Birches. The families’ six year old daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go for a walk outside with their older siblings, Ralph Dover and Eliza Birch. The children have to be forcefully pulled away from a parked RV by their siblings when they start climbing on it. After dinner, the younger daughters leave to go back to Anna’s house to get her safety whistle she is supposed to carry at all times, but they never come back. After a police hunt, the RV is found parked outside a gas station next to a wooded area. When Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who heads the case, goes to confront the RV’s driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Alex panics, tries to speed away, and crashes into the trees.
Alex is taken in for questioning, but it is found that he has the IQ of a 10-year-old and rarely speaks. The RV shows no forensic evidence indicating the girls were forcibly taken into it, and Alex’s low intelligence means he couldn’t have covered up such evidence. Also, polygraph tests of him prove inconclusive due to his low IQ, and he repeatedly denies ever having seen the children. Detective Loki goes to see Alex’s aunt, Holly Jones (Melissa Leo), who raised him with his uncle after his parents died when he was six. Alex’s uncle left the home a couple of years previous after a domestic dispute with his aunt. Alex spends most nights sleeping in the RV and does not have many things.
As the police are unable to find evidence against Alex, he is released in two days. Keller attacks him in a parking lot, and afterwards claimed that Alex told him, “They only cried when I left them.” No one was close enough to hear this to corroborate, but he takes this as proof that Alex took the girls. That night, Keller abducts Alex at gunpoint while walking his dog, and imprisons him in an abandoned, run-down apartment building he was to renovate with his carpentry business. With the reluctant help of Joy’s father Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), Keller repeatedly beats Alex for days for information. Overcome with guilt, Franklin tells his wife Nancy (Viola Davis) what they have done and brings her to see Alex. While talking to him, she unties Alex and he attempts to escape. This forces Keller to build a wall around a shower, where he locks Alex. It is devoid of light except for a small PVC tube talk-hole, and Keller is able to torture Alex with scalding or freezing water. At this point the Birches decide they cannot participate any longer, but they do not stop Keller. Detective Loki begins tailing Keller after hearing that Alex went missing, and eventually finds the apartment complex, though he does not discover Alex at the time.
Over the days Alex is being tortured, Detective Loki trails other leads. While investigating sex offenders in the area, he discovers that Father Patrick Dunn has a long-dead body in his basement. Father Dunn claims that he did not know who the man was, but that in a confession the man bragged about killing sixteen children and also admitted to having a family. Father Dunn confesses that he convinced the man to come to his house, where he killed him to “save the children”. Father Dunn is arrested for the crime. During a candlelight vigil for the missing girls, Detective Loki notices a man acting suspicious, but loses him in a chase. Subsequent scenes show the man breaking into the Dover and Birch homes, though it is not revealed what he did there. Keller’s wife hears the window open when the man breaks in, but never sees him, and believes Anna had come back. Detective Loki writes down her statement of someone coming in through the window. After a sketch of the man appears on the news, a department store clerk recognizes him and states that he comes in from time to time to examine children’s mannequins and buy children’s clothing. The man is revealed to be Bob Taylor when the clerk gives Loki the man’s license plate to track him down. Loki confronts Taylor at his home and within finds that the walls are covered in drawings of intricate mazes. In a back room, locked crates filled with maze books, snakes, and bloody children’s clothing are discovered. Both the Dovers and Birches identify clothing belonging to their children from the crates, and Taylor confesses to killing them. Keller begins to regret his actions towards Alex, but still believes Alex may know where the bodies are. Alex mentions a clue about finding them in a maze. Keller goes to the Jones home to “apologize” to Holly for attacking Alex at the police station, but in reality, he is there to judge her reaction after he mentions he’s having dreams of Anna in a maze.
Believing there’s a small chance the children might still be alive, Loki beats Taylor during questioning, but Taylor manages to grab Loki’s gun from his belt and commits suicide. The blood on the children’s clothes is later found to be pig’s blood, and after looking back at Keller’s wife’s statement about the window, Loki realizes Taylor had stolen clothing from the girls’ rooms. Taylor is revealed to be a fake killer copying a book titled, “The Invisible Man” which prominently features mazes, especially a circular maze (seen in the “O” in the “Prisoners” logo) which Taylor was drawing while in custody. Days later, Joy Birch is found drugged and is hospitalized, but Anna is still missing. In her drugged state, Joy rambles that Keller was there, giving the audience the impression that Keller is somehow in on it. Keller rushes off as Loki chases him. Loki loses him, but heads toward the apartment complex and discovers the imprisoned Alex.
Keller, however, went to Holly’s, realizing that is where Joy had heard him. Holly holds him at gunpoint and forces him to consume the same sedative used to incapacitate Anna and Joy. She reveals that she and her husband had been religious people, like Keller, until their son died of cancer at a young age. They decided to spite God by making children disappear without a trace to turn them into demons, as evidenced by what Keller had become. Alex was their first child to be abducted and they raised as their own son. Holly and her husband continued to kill until he ran from home one day; unknown to her, her husband was the man Loki had found in Patrick’s basement. From that point on, she basically stopped as she needed his assistance. However, when Alex gave Anna and Joy a ride for their amusement, she found her chance to do so again. Alex never harmed the girls. Holly dumps Keller (now handcuffed) in a pit hidden under a functional car made to appear broken. This pit is where she had made all the abducted children “disappear”. However, she mentions having moved Anna and Joy into the house when the police started looking around, which is what allowed Joy to eventually escape. In the pit, Keller finds his daughter’s whistle, and begins to attempt to repent for the demon he had become.
Loki goes to Holly’s house to tell her about Alex being found. He enters when she doesn’t respond, and realizes that her husband was the dead man in Patrick’s basement when he sees a picture of him wearing the same necklace as the dead man. He confronts Holly as she injects Anna with cyanide. The two shoot each other; Loki is wounded, but Holly is killed. He rushes Anna to the hospital and she is saved.
Days later, it is revealed that Keller is still missing, and is assumed to be on the run to avoid prison time for his crimes to Alex. Loki promises his wife he’ll find him. When searching through the newspaper, it is revealed that Alex is actually the boy who was kidnapped from the mother Loki visited earlier in the film. Loki is later shown with a team excavating Holly’s yard for remains, but the cold weather dramatically slows the search. After the team leaves, Loki is left alone, seemingly pondering Keller’s whereabouts. He hears a faint whistle, but believes it to be his imagination. However, the whistle keeps blowing and Loki turns around to investigate.