Prisoners of the Moment

What is the best and worst movie you’ve seen? Most likely you thought of two separate movies. I didn’t. I thought of the movie Prisoners. Confused? Let me explain.

This post contains spoilers, but the movie is so bad that I am doing you a favor.

Thrillers are hit or miss for me. I want to relax when I watch a movie, but I love a compelling plot. Since Prisoners is one of my friend’s favorite movies, I watched it with him.

Prisoners is about the search for two girls who were kidnapped. Along the way, the dad tortures a suspect the police let go. He does this because the suspect – a teenage boy – told the dad, “They only cried when I left them.” Despite this obvious admission of guilt and despite being brutally tortured for a week, the boy says nothing.

All the while, a detective leads a tense investigation full of red herrings to find the girls. We meet a suspect who happens to enjoy stealing little girl’s clothes, covering them in pig’s blood and storing them with snakes, a priest who leaves a dead body in his basement. After what felt like forever with no attempt to ease the tension, we got to the end of the movie. I was uncomfortable the entire time but equally curious to see the mystery resolved.

So when they revealed that the boy’s aunt was the kidnapper and that she had drugged the boy to do her bidding, I was unsatisfied. As the credits rolled, I started processing the resolution, and questions kept coming. After seeing the ending, plot holes appeared everywhere, but none bigger than the boy. If he was innocent, why didn’t he say, “My crazy aunt drugged me and made me take the girls, and this is where they are!”

The movie “answered” this by telling us that the drugs damaged him so that he had the brain intelligence of a ten-year-old. What?!? Even a ten-year-old would be able to say where the girls were. More importantly, earlier he coherently said unprompted that “they only cried when I left them,” but when he’s being burned with steaming water, he can’t say a word? Only one answer makes sense: The boy wasn’t a real human but a puppet for the director.

If he was so mentally challenged, he wouldn’t have been able to make his creepy confession at the beginning of the movie, but then the director wouldn’t have the excuse to make morally ambiguous statements about torture and human nature. Likewise, if the boy was a real human, he would have turned his Aunt in, but then the movie would have been 20 minutes and the director wouldn’t have the excuse to make dramatic twists and create a truly disturbing movie in an attempt to be taken seriously as a thought-provoking, serious artist.

So when I said that this is the worst movie I have ever seen, I mean it. As for it also being the best movie I’ve ever seen, I was lying to you. I just needed a hook to get you to read my article.

I’m kidding. I would never do that to you. In one way, Prisoners has been the best movie I’ve seen. I’ve spent more time thinking about Prisoners than any other movie. No other movie has given me as much joy by making fun of it. That night I went home and read reviews. Most people were delusional and loved it, but there were enough that shared my sentiment. I was up for hours laughing as I read people expose plot holes and ridicule the absurdity of the movie. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Prisoners is hideous, cruel, degrading, depressing, relentless, prolonged, humorless, claustrophobic, and a mockery of any surviving tradition in which films are entertaining. And 153 minutes.”

“So he was so resilient to torture or simply he was [too] stupid to make a sentence that makes sense. The later makes more sense, but on the other hand, it makes no sense at all.”

“So all we have is a story that is not just improbable, but impossible, scene after scene. Much more believable is Obi Wan Ken-obi getting a free pass by wiggling his fingers and saying, “these aren’t the Droids you’re looking for.” That was entertaining. What’s entertaining about an impossible fantasy of something so real and horrible as child abduction?”

I was inspired. For weeks I actively told anyone and everyone how terrible the movie was. I found new ways to ridicule it. I’ve had so much fun that 3 years later I’m writing about it. So in terms of enjoyment gained, this is one of the best movies I’ve watched – it’s just that none of the enjoyment came during the movie.

Within my experience, there’s a lesson about how things that are painful in the moment can be fruitful down the road. Its worth expanding on, but for now I’d rather scour the internet for another Prisoners’ roast.

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