Wilson Webb
Alex Jones (Paul Dano, right) and Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) in "Prisoners."

Sometimes when I’m watching a film, it occurs to me that it must have been really fun to work on the set.

That never crossed my mind while watching “Prisoners.”

This is a gritty and disturbing film that will leave you asking “What would I be capable of if my child was abducted and the one person who either committed the crime or could provide information won’t, or can’t, talk.”

Hugh Jackman and Terrance Howard star as Keller and Franklin, two friends whose lives are forever altered when their two little girls are abducted on Thanksgiving Day. A suspicious vehicle was seen in the neighborhood at the time of their disappearance, and it leads Detective Loki, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, to detain Alex Jones, a social misfit who comes from a very strange background.

With no evidence, no confession and only suspicion, Alex, played by Paul Dano, is about to be released — and Keller isn’t happy. He’s so unhappy that he goes to the police station and as the suspect emerges from the doors, confronts Alex. As he’s slamming him down on the hood of a car, Keller hears the suspect utter words that convince him that Alex knows where the girls are. But nobody else heard and there's nothing the cops can do.

This is where Keller decides to do whatever it takes.

Up until now, the film is nail-biting and disturbingly compelling — but what follows starts to drift. In an effort to keep us all guessing, there are innumerable strange elements introduced. There's a drunken priest with a body in the basement, a creepy guy who attends a vigil with really distressing stuff in his home and what happens to Alex is shocking.

There’s no doubt that this is Jackman and Gyllenhaal’s movie, and there are moments of brilliance. But they’re undone by the manipulative script. Maria Bello and Viola Davis play Keller and Franklin's devastated wives, and both have incredible scenes. But they too fall prey to the fumbled plot line.

The loose ends and the unanswered questions left me disappointed, and the final scene just before the credits roll sealed the film's fate. I felt used.

No doubt, we’ve got an incredible cast here, but it’s not an incredible movie. Just 2 ½ stars for “Prisoners,” which is rated R for disturbing violent content, including torture, and language throughout.