Prisoners Movie Ending Explained (In Detail)

Captives is a heavy psychological thriller with an unpredictable plot and brilliant acting. A film about eternal values, about good and evil, and whether violence can be used for good.


The provincial town meets the next Thanksgiving Day under a drizzle. The Dover family goes to visit friends and neighbors of the Birchs. During the celebration, two little girls go missing. The hope that the mischievous hid is slowly fading. After fruitless attempts to find their daughters, desperate parents realize that the children have been stolen.

The case of the kidnapping is taken to investigate the experienced detective Loki, his role was masterfully played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The only suspect is the driver of a van parked on the street where the Birches live. A young man is trying to hide from the police, his guilt is beyond doubt. A ten-hour interrogation of Alex Jones (Paul Dano) yields no answers, besides, it turns out that the guy has the intelligence of a small child. There is no evidence against Jones, and Holly’s aunt (Melissa Leo) comes for her nephew. In the parking lot near the police station, a meeting took place between the potential kidnapper and the distraught father. The guy says the phrase that predetermined his fate: “They didn’t cry until I left.”

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is furious after talking to the police. He does not believe in justice, in an effective and quick investigation, and he thinks that Jones is a sophisticated maniac. Gloomy fears were confirmed – the guy, walking the dog, torments the animal and sings a song that the girls sang. Dover kidnaps Jones and takes him to an old mansion. Together with Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard), Keller beats up Alex, hoping that under torture he will tell where he hides his girlfriends.

Gyllenhaal’s hero is tirelessly looking for Joy and Anna. He checks all unreliable persons. A visit to the priest gives an unexpected result. In the basement, Loki finds a half-decomposed corpse tied to a chair. The sober padre says that many years ago a man told about the murders of children, which he committed and will not stop – this is his challenge to God, an irreconcilable war with the Almighty.

The investigation gets off the ground when another suspect appears. An unfamiliar young man was noticed among the sympathetic townspeople. From the detective’s studying gaze, he rushes to his heels, and he manages to find him a few days later.

Keller is also under the scrutiny of an outstanding detective. The cop follows him, and Jackman’s character leads him to the building where he keeps his victim. At the last moment, he notices the presence of the detective, and tries to convince the detective that he is drinking and hiding it from his wife. Later, a snarky policeman finds out that the dilapidated mansion belongs to the Dovers. Keller is forced to show the house, but a phone call saves him from exposure. Scalded with boiling water and mutilated, Alex remains immured in a wooden box.

In Bob Taylor’s (David Dastmalchian) apartment, a cop discovers crates full of snakes and bloodied children’s clothes. The psychopath is obsessed with labyrinths, the apartment is full of mysterious drawings, and in the area he does not stop drawing intricate lines. Loki loses control of himself, and the unforeseen happens during interrogation with passion – Taylor shoots himself with an officer’s pistol. The investigation is at an impasse – the children were not found, and later it turns out that Bob is an imitator, the blood on things is pig, and the clothes were stolen after the disappearance of the little ones.

Keller begins to doubt Alex’s involvement in the kidnapping, but the half-dead captive suddenly says: “They are in the maze.” Dover visits Aunt Holly but is unable to find anything. An elderly woman shares her pain – her husband went missing, her son died of cancer, and after an accident with snakes, her nephew showed mental disorders.

The dull stupor of the gray town is shaken by the news – one of the stolen ones has been found. Joy Birch drugged, she barely uttered a phrase addressed to Dover: “You were there.” Keller takes off and goes to Mrs. Jones.

Loki tries to catch up with the fugitive, but in vain. He assumes that Dover has headed for the abandoned mansion. The prisoner was released.

Aunt Holly greets the guest wary, she understands that she was exposed. Threatening with a gun, the crazy old woman forces him to drink an intoxicating drink. Dover learns the chilling truth – the Joneses stole and killed children many years ago, and Alex is one of them. After the death of their own child, the grieving spouses became disillusioned with God. They did these horrendous deeds so that other parents would lose their faith. After the conversation, the aunt shoots Dover in the knee and throws him into the pit. A wounded man finds his daughter’s ill-fated whistle there.

Gyllenhaal’s character goes to Mrs. Jones, and finds her lying over Anna with a syringe in her hands. Shots are fired, the insane Holly falls dead. A bleeding police officer takes the girl to the hospital.

The rescued children and Grace visit Loki. Keller is considered missing. A restless cop drives to the Joneses’ house. He hears the sound of a whistle coming from the pit.

Photo: Prisoners, 2013

The meaning of the film

The work of director Denis Villeneuve touches on many aspects. The central place is occupied by the transformation of the suffering father into the executioner. How justified is cruelty if the fate of a child is at stake? How far can a person who is confident in his rightness go, and is it possible to take life in exchange for life? Villeneuve warns the perpetrators of lynching, demonstrates what the victory of emotions over reason leads to.

In the plot of the film, a religious theme runs like a red thread – the killing of a deer after a fervent prayer, a cross in Keller’s car, a tattooed cross on the detective’s arm. As a mockery of spirituality – a drunken padre who killed a monster. The servant of the Lord preferred not to violate the secrecy of confession, but to take upon himself a grave sin. Dover’s prayer before torture looks creepy and ridiculous, a deeply religious person cannot be so enslaved by a ruthless inner demon.

Characteristics of heroes

Keller Dover is a caring dad and loving husband, Christian and hard worker. With a steel core, detailed, with its own scenarios in case of an apocalypse. He is used to being responsible for the family. Jackman’s hero is unable to contain the impotent rage, anger and anger at himself and the servants of the law. The words of the wife that she always believed in his protection and reliability become a trigger, and the head of the family begins to act. Humanism, integrity, moral principles turned out to be an empty phrase. The hero, like a driven animal, overwhelmed by instincts, stood up to protect his offspring.

Detective Loki is an extremely collected and unemotional person. His excitement is transmitted only by a nervous tick, which intensifies in critical situations. He is not ambitious, which his boss suspects, and he perceives failures in his search as a personal drama. A tenacious and attentive policeman methodically investigates a complicated case.

Alex Jones. A character with an unenviable fate. His life is the tragedy of a downtrodden, timid, self-contained person. The boy was taken away from his family, he lived with the kidnappers, and only God knows what kind of torment he went through. But it turned out that these tests are not enough – the guy ends up in the hands of a distraught man.

Chet Birche. Married couples play a minor role. They cover up for the atrocity that Dover is committing, hoping that it will help find the missing children. Their behavior is standard for the townsfolk, they humbly wait and believe in the best.

Conclusion: suspense and open ending

The film became especially memorable not only thanks to the excellent acting and an exciting script. The abundance of suspense creates an incredibly strong, painful feeling. Every frame is saturated with anxiety and hopelessness – gray streets with faceless houses, slush turning into cold, residents with a “double bottom”, the mental and physical suffering of the characters, a depressing soundtrack. Numerous boxes in Taylor’s dwelling lead to a stupor, and a terrible guess makes you hold your breath. Reptiles crawling on children’s things cause both relief and disgust.

Protracted timing, a series of failures, waves of pain and despair give rise to almost physical fatigue in the audience. It seems that the missing kids are already dead, and lovers of detective thrillers are doomed to look at the endless throwing of parents and futile searches.

According to many critics, the ending of the film is left open, the viewer must decide for himself whether Jackman’s character will be found. For me, the answer is obvious – the inquisitive mind of a cop can easily put together puzzle pieces, the executioner, who became a prisoner, will be saved after three days of imprisonment.

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