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For Sam Woolf’s “Prisoners Review [TIFF 2013],” the Devil’s in the Details

In response to Sam Woolf’s 1093‑word review of Prisoners on We Got This Covered

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Critic Sam Woolf pulls off quite a feat in his “Prisoners Review [TIFF 2013].” Despite the review being replete with enough tiny, intricate details to make the reader feel like he is sitting right there in a darkened theater watching the movie alongside Woolf, the big picture remains obscured enough that no major plot points are spoiled.

It is almost an embarrassment of riches as far as imagery and metaphor, but all without tipping its hand. When all is said and done, Prisoners Review might just be the Prisoners review of the year.

Many reviews that surpass the 1,000-word mark share the same shortcoming: the writer spends too much time getting bogged down in the details of the narrative, a job best left to narrators. Woolf avoids that problem by focusing on the little things instead: the contents of a basement, the turning of a season, a voiceover of the Lord’s Prayer. All these details put the reader right there in a frame of the movie, but without revealing what’s outside that frame.

There is one glaring flaw in “Prisoners Review,” though, before the final sentence tying the whole thing together, the reader is assaulted with an embedded video for the film’s trailer. It has the effect of pulling the reader out of the review right before the payoff, and its presence is jarring. This could have gone before the review, or better yet left out completely. Still, this flaw can be overlooked in light of Woolf’s masterful prose.    

Quality of Writing Quality of Argument Spoiler Avoidance Presentation