Prisoners, one of the best thrillers of the decade, is the number one movie on Netflix – if you’ve just watched it for the first time and want to catch yourself up on the ending, let’s break it down.
Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was first released in 2013. It boasts an all-star cast, including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo.
It’s a nail-biting, brutal thriller, following Keller Dover’s (Jackman) descent into brutality after his daughter and her friend are abducted in Thanksgiving, while Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal) follows a trail of snakes, mazes, and horror to track them down.
With the movie returning to Netflix and thousands watching over the weekend, we’re here to explain the ending of Prisoners – did Loki find Keller alive?
Prisoners ending explained: What happens?
After torturing Alex (Dano) to within an inch of his life, beating him to a pulp and blistering him under a boiling shower, the discovery of Joy makes Keller realizes where his daughter is: Holly’s (Leo) home, where she believes she saw him.
He arrives under the pretence of offering to fix her door, having hassled her earlier in the movie. However, as he prepares to reveal the true nature of his visit, she holds him at gunpoint. She explains how she and her husband abducted children of Christian families as a “war on God” after the death of their son, and Alex was their first kidnapping.
She doesn’t take him to Anna, instead forcing him to drink a bottle of poisoned liquid, before shooting him in the leg and dumping him into a pit in her backyard underneath an old car. There, he finds Anna’s emergency whistle.
Loki eventually arrives at Holly’s to tell her about Alex, but after noticing a photo of her late husband wearing a maze necklace – the same mazes sketched by Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian) before he shot himself – he realizes she’s responsible for Anna’s disappearance.
He searches the home and finds Holly injecting Anna with poison. They exchange fire, with Loki taking a severe graze and Holly killed instantly. Loki rushes Anna to hospital, where she makes a full recovery – however, he doesn’t save Keller, as he doesn’t know where he is.
Later, Grace (Bello) brings Anna and Joy to the hospital to meet Loki. She knows Keller will be arrested if he’s ever found, but insists he isn’t a bad person. We then see Loki return to Holly’s home, where a forensic team is finishing up their work for the night.
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As the lights shut off, Loki hears a faint whistling behind him. At first, he ignores it – but then he hears the whistle, faint but pronounced. He turns around and stares at the yard, and the movie cuts to black.
Prisoners ending: Did Loki find Keller alive?
Yes, Loki found Keller alive. This has been confirmed by the film’s screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, he explained: “Oddly enough, that’s how it was in the script when it was bought. And it never really changed. When we were shooting, we did shoot a version where it goes a little beyond where the fade out is.
“There’s a version where he moves the car and sees Hugh down there, and so on. None of us really wanted to do that version, but we wanted to make sure we had it in case once the film was put together it seemed like it really needed it.
“They move the car. They see he’s down there. You know he’s going to be taken out of the hole. I like it much better being ambiguous. Even though you assume that’s what’s probably going to happen, I like that there’s a small chance that he’s not going to get him out of there for whatever reason.”
As for what would have happened next, “I think, unfortunately, he would go to prison,” Guzikowski said.
“The final irony – his father was a prison guard, and the whole movie is metaphors of people’s internal prisons, external prisons. I believe that’s what would end up happening to him: that he would go to prison for some time.”
Prisoners is available to stream on Netflix now.