In this section of the Colossus Movie Guide for Prisoners, we will explain the film’s ending.
- Keller Dover – Hugh Jackman
- Grace Dover – Maria Bello
- Franklin Birch – Terrence Howard
- Nancy Birch – Viola Davis
- Detective Loki – Jake Gyllenhaal
- Alex Jones – Paul Dano
- Holly Jones – Melissa Leo
- Bob Taylor – David Dastmalchian
- Anna Dover – Erin Gerasimovich
- Joy Birch – Kyla-Drew Simmons
- Written by – Aaron Guzikowski
- Directed by – Denis Villeneuve
The end of Prisoners explained
The last stretch of Prisoners starts with Keller Dover realizing Holly Jones has his kidnapped daughter. Keller drives to her house, hoping to trick her, but she gets the drop on him. After a brief conversation, she imprisons him in a pit in her yard that’s hidden underneath an old car. Keller’s wounded and without much in the way of tools. But he does find his daughter’s emergency whistle.
Meanwhile, Detective Loki finds Alex Jones in the abandoned apartment complex Keller Dover owns. The police captain tells Loki to head over to Holly’s and let her know they found Alex. When Loki gets there, he’s suspicious and enters the house. He finds a picture with Holly’s lost husband, wearing a maze necklace Loki knows from a body he discovered earlier in the film. He then searches the house and finds Holly crouched over Anna’s body. The two exchange gunfire. Loki’s wounded. Holly’s killed. Loki then rushes Anna to the hospital where they save her from a lethal injection.
After a conversation with Keller’s wife, Anna’s mother, in the hospital, we see Loki back at Holly Jones’s house. It’s late at night and an evidence team has just wrapped up for the day. They say they didn’t find anything. Loki says, “Pray for the best, prepare for the worst, yeah?” The evidence team leaves. Loki spends a few minutes in the silence of the night. Then he hears a whistle. He shakes it off. But then hears it again. And again. Then the movie ends.
Does Loki Find Keller?
First things first. If you’re wondering if Loki discovers Keller, the answer is yes. Aaron Guzikowski, the screenwriter, in an interview with Buzzfeed said:
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. But after testing the film with the ending it has now, everyone decided that was definitely the way to go. Joel Cox, the editor, felt very strongly about it. I just think that’s the moment when the movie is ready to end.
“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.”
Even though they cut the actual discovery sequence, there’s plenty of foreshadowing that makes Keller’s discovery a safe assumption. First, when Loki is at the priest’s house near the beginning of the film, he notices a mark on the floor next to the refrigerator. It’s evidence that, for some reason, the fridge had changed positions. He thinks about it for a moment then moves the fridge and discovers a secret door that leads to a hidden basement and the mummified remains of someone who is later revealed as Holly Jones’s missing husband. So we know Loki is someone who puts 2 and 2 together. He is thorough and thoughtful.
The situation with Keller is almost identical. Swap the fridge and the car. And the hidden basement with a hole in the ground. And Mr. Jones with Keller Dover.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, before Loki leaves the hospital, his conversation with Keller’s wife, Grace, involves Loki asking if Anna found her whistle. At the very beginning of Prisoners, before the kidnapping, Anna and Joy leave Thanksgiving at the Birch’s to go back to the Dover house so Joy can help Anna find her missing whistle. It’s that very whistle that Keller discovers in the hole. Meaning the girls had found it before Alex took them. Loki knew about the whistle as part of the initial information gathering regarding the kidnapping. Grace tells him that Anna swore she had it but can’t find it again. Immediately after that conversation, we get the scene with Loki hearing the whistle at Holly’s. There’s a 0% chance he doesn’t piece together “Anna said she had her whistle. Now someone’s blowing a whistle in the last place Anna was. Someone else is probably here and in need of help.” The only reason the whistle conversation happens is to set-up Loki finding Keller.
What will happen to Keller?
This is probably the more important question. He kidnapped Alex Jones. Tortured Alex. Then resisted arrest. He could face prison time. But it’s likely no one presses charges given the context of Alex kidnapping Keller’s daughter. And, you know, being sealed in a pit kind of seems like punishment enough.
What happened to Alex?
There’s that newspaper page that shows Alex was also a kidnapped child and now he’s been reunited with his original family.
Loki and Keller are in thematic juxtaposition. Keller is a devout Christian with a family. While Loki has the name of a Norse mythological figure and has tattoos from several different religions. When Loki’s driving Anna to the hospital, he even has blood pool in his one eye, blinding him in one eye, which almost seems like a direct reference to the Norse god Odin (famed for only having one eye). The last thing we hear from Keller is him praying, “Almighty God, protect my girl.” Then immediately Loki swoops in and saves the day.
In contrast to that, Loki, when talking to the evidence team, has that line of “Pray for the best, prepare for the worst, yeah?” Keller is a doomsday prepper. Given his intense faith, he’s the embodiment of “pray for the best, prepare for the worst.” Which was the whole reason Anna had an emergency whistle in the first place. The preparation led to the whistle being in the pit, which leads to Loki hearing the whistle. Which will lead to Loki saving Keller.
There’s an interesting statement being made about faith. With Prisoners kind of making Loki this tool of the divine. This ties into a lot of the Chrisitan and mythological motifs that appear throughout the movie and add a whole other layer of conversation beyond the more obvious exploration of prisons. What makes this rich is that it’s almost entirely subtextual with little being told to the viewer. So there’s not a clear cut, direct answer we can provide you with. Rather, it’s just something to be aware of as you watch/re-watch and for you to sort through what the faith and religious aspects mean to you. What’s most interesting, I think, is the way in which the prayers of this Christian man are answered by someone who is non-denominational. And what does that say? Especially when nature is such a motif.
What are your thoughts?
Is there more to the ending that you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Prisoners? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.