Director: Mahmud Kamel | Script: Ahmed El Malawany | Cast: Elham Ali (Rawan), Khalid El-Saqer (Ammar), Reem Abd El Kader (Reem), each | Time to play: 83 minutes | Year: 2023
The prisoner is, in its own words, a horror movie, but it never becomes scary or gory. Because of all the vague events, it seems more like a mystery or fantasy. The only interesting element is the pain that the family has to face: the loss of their son. Unfortunately, justice is not done to this sensitive part of the story.
After the loss of their son, Rawan and Ammar temporarily move to another house with their daughter Reem, following the advice of their psychologist. It sounds strange that the psychologist recommends avoidance behaviors, because it makes it much more difficult to return to the previous life. When the psychologist also advises Reem to take away her brother’s toys, the healer’s alarm definitely rings. All in order to avoid the memory of the deceased child. And what do we see happen in the film? Correct: it doesn’t help at all.
Although it is a common thread throughout the story, family tragedy as a theme is not well presented. At the beginning of the film we mainly see a lot of wet, tearful cheeks and long, staring gazes. There’s a lot of this and it quickly starts to get irritating. There are more supposedly meaningful looks than dialogue, and it gets boring. It doesn’t help build tension, although that may be the intention.
It has not yet been revealed how the son died. In any case, Rawan blames Ammar for it. This unspoken reproach should be fascinating, but it’s hard to get the tension off the ground. The long stares and lack of gory action mean the film can’t be classified as true horror.
The incessant drone shots of the exterior of the gaudy villa where the family is staying, which keep interrupting the story, don’t help either. Like we come back after commercials and need to be reminded where everyone is right now. And while the entire movie takes place in the same place.
The shaky camera work further ruins the tension. It’s so amateurish that sometimes it seems as if the cameraman is still searching for the right angle. The question is why this technique was chosen, while the large, lonely village and the numerous scenes without dialogue would clearly have benefited more from a fixed camera to increase the intensity.
And what horror there is is poorly executed and cliché. Dark figures in the night, a terrifying doll that appears in an unexpected place, mirrors that do not reflect but show a different reality. The symbolism or intention behind it remains to be guessed, it seems to have been chosen at random and has nothing to do with each other or the main point.
The film’s title refers to a painting. A portrait of a man who looks a lot like Al Pacino; Not that it’s part of the film, but it may explain why Rawan immediately becomes obsessed with painting, while her husband Ammar keeps his feet on the ground. It is a well-known phenomenon that women like to stare at Al Pacino.
When Rawan gets scared looking at the apparently possessed painting, he does something very refreshing: he calls for a doctor. Instead of the often used standard phrase “I’m not crazy, I know what I saw!” that movie characters shout after seeing ghosts, monsters, aliens, possible serial killers and all that. When Ammar says that he wants to finish his work first, an interesting conflict finally arises.
Then, halfway through, the movie finally turns exciting, but unsuccessful. The revelation about the mysterious painting is completed very quickly, without preparation or real searching, and everything is known within a few minutes. The revelation about the death of Rawan and Ammar’s son, on the other hand, is incomplete and unconvincing. Once again, the family drama deserved much more attention. This is followed by another interesting event, which very well expresses how the death of his son drove a wedge between Rawan and Ammar. It’s a shame the creators didn’t expand on this topic.
Just like the emotional aspect of The prisoner If it had received more attention, it would have been a better, more fascinating and deeper film. The loose horror elements that make no sense and are not explained at the end of the film seem to have nothing to do with anything. As well as the technique of the film and ultimately even the theme. Therefore, the ending is simplistic and meaningless, after only eighty-three minutes. Like many scenes in which the protagonists stare into space, evidently mainly because of their beautiful eyes.
The prisoner can be seen in Amazon Prime.