Rapidly becoming the most over-used trope in movies is the image of a male hunter shooting a graceful deer. In “The Queen,” “The Hunt,” and now “Prisoners” - the shot is both shorthand for man’s intrinsic violence and an ominous portent of retributive trouble ahead. In “Prisoners,” there is the heavy-handed addition of a Christian hunter reciting a prayer - we should know from the start that no good will come his way. Hugh Jackman stars as Keller, a religious man who is a millenialist, storing canned food in the basement for the ever-possible apocalypse. He is the ur-father who must protect his family from harm and at the same time, a tightly wound former alcoholic waiting to explode. The trigger for this is the abduction of his young daughter and her close friend on Thanksgiving Day - some sophomoric irony for the especially dense viewer.
Jake Gyllenhall plays the detective on the case - the only cop in movie history to never have a partner or call for backup. We know he’s sensitive because he has an eye twitch that headlines his vulnerability. His main activity is following Hugh Jackman who manages to elude him, eventually to his heavily-foreshadowed detriment. Paul Dano plays the prime suspect, a tall moon-faced, retarded man whose taciturn nature may be hiding his guilt or his anguished background. Orphaned at a young age, he has been raised by a caring aunt who lost her own son to cancer and is the model of patience and Christian virtue.
Torture ensues with a full panoply of grisly makeup that would made Bud Westmore shiver in his grave. The movie is very long so more suspects turn up, including an alcoholic priest who has a skeleton in his closet - actually, it’s in his basement - more anti-Christian fodder that would never pass muster if it were anti-Muslim in pc Hollywood. Snakes and bloody props soon follow along with the requisite number of red herrings. Without spoiling the whodunit reveal, I can say that the motive for the crime was a war against the Christian god; hmmmm, the pile-on of these sentiments couldn’t be any thicker than if the movie had been made by the Taliban.
None of the reviews that I read mentioned this recurring theme, more evidence for the current license to trash Christianity with impunity while observing holier than thou attitudes for Muslims and other sacred cows. Perhaps we need a newly coined single word like Islamophobe or homophobe to make this bigotry more recognizable. The filmmaker shooting darts at Christians is very similar to the hunter shooting that symbolic deer.
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