Prisoners ending explained: Who is the kidnapper?

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: (L-R) Actor Hugh Jackman, director Denis Villeneuve, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal attend the Warner Bros. Pictures' premiere of "Prisoners" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on September 12, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: (L-R) Actor Hugh Jackman, director Denis Villeneuve, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal attend the Warner Bros. Pictures' premiere of "Prisoners" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on September 12, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images) /

Since its release in 2013, Prisoners has been deemed a gripping addition to the thriller genre. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, the film takes viewers on a wild ride demonstrating the impact of loss and grievance.

The story begins on Thanksgiving when two young girls, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich) and Joy (Kyla-Drew Simmons), disappear from their neighborhood. Alex (Paul Dano), the prime suspect in the kidnappings, is taken into custody and questioned by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). As no evidence proves that Alex committed the crime, he is released after 48 hours. When the investigation fails to produce any leads, Keller (Hugh Jackman), attempts to find his daughter Anna through his own means, refusing to give up until he discovers who is responsible.

Prisoners is full of subplots that create several questions, so let’s dig into the answers below!

Warning, spoilers ahead from Prisoners.

What happens at the end of Prisoners, and who is the kidnapper?

After Joy escapes from the killer’s home and is taken to the hospital, Keller questions her in hopes of finding Anna, who is still missing. During their interaction, Joy reveals that Keller was there. Though the statement initially confuses him, he puts the pieces together and realizes that Joy must have heard him when he visited Holly (Melissa Leo), which makes him go back to her house.

As Holly opens the front door, Keller bluffs his way into the house. Once invited in, he informs her that he knows she is responsible for the girls’ disappearance. Holly then holds Keller at gunpoint and tells him that if he wants to see Anna again, he must drink from a drugged bottle. She then asks Keller to put handcuffs on and directs him outside.

As she follows closely behind him, Holly admits that she and her husband kidnapped Alex and Bob when they were children, and she and Mr. Jones began their heinous crimes to wage war on God. We can assume this links back to an earlier moment in the film when Holly informs Keller that their child died of cancer, which made her and Mr. Jones see religion differently.

Holly then instructs Keller to get in a car that is parked outside the house and drive it forward. Once moved, it reveals a piece of wood on the ground that, when uncovered, has a big hole underneath. Holly implies that Anna is down there, but she is not. She then asks Keller to get into the hole, and when he refuses, she shoots him in the leg, which forces him to abide. Holly then covers the hole back up with the piece of wood, leaving Keller trapped. As he looks around on the ground, he finds various items of Anna’s, including a whistle that belongs to her.

After Alex is located in the hideout that Keller held him captive in, Loki is instructed to go to Holly’s house to advise her that Alex has been found. As Loki arrives at her home, she is nowhere to be seen. Upon looking around the house, Loki finds a picture of Mr. Jones wearing a maze pendant, the same type of maze that Bob would continuously draw. This is also the pendant found on the body at the priest’s house, which confirms that Holly and Mr. Jones are responsible for the kidnappings and killings. Loki finds Holly in a room drugging Anna and tells her to freeze. He then shoots Holly dead, but right before he kills her, she shoots at Loki and wounds him on his face.

Loki is severely hurt but rushes Anna to the hospital to save her life, and he succeeds. Anna is reunited with her mom and brother while Loki receives treatment for his wound. In an interaction between Loki and Keller’s wife, Grace (Maria Bello), she informs him that she still hasn’t heard from Keller and doesn’t know of his whereabouts. As Loki returns to Holly’s house to check in on the investigation, he hears a faint whistling. The sound is coming from Keller, who blows the whistle hoping to be found. At first, Loki dismisses the noise, but as it continues, he looks around the area in an attempt to locate where the noise is coming from.

In Prisoners, do Alex and Bob have any involvement in the kidnappings?

Though we are led to believe that Alex is the killer, he is merely a red herring kidnapped by Holly and Mr. Jones. We also learn that Alex’s name is, in fact, Barry, and in the last act, Loki reads a newspaper that shows Barry has been reunited with his family after being missing for 26 years.

Bob (David Dastmalchian) was also a victim, but he escaped after three weeks. Due to his experience, he has severe trauma and, in later life, attempts to recreate what he witnessed when held captive as a child. Though the police find Bob’s behavior suspicious, and the items found in his home make him look guilty, he doesn’t kidnap or kill anyone.

The blood on the clothes is found to be pig’s blood, and the snakes discovered in the suitcases are another recreation from his childhood, as we learn that Mr. Jones used to have snakes. Bob is obsessed with mazes because Holly and Mr. Jones told each victim they would be set free if they solved maze puzzle books. This links to Bob’s obsession with the FBI book Finding the Invisible Man and his belief that it was written about his kidnapper.

Does Loki find Keller at the end of Prisoners?

We never see Loki save Keller, but we can assume he is found. Due to the ambiguous ending, there is always the possibility that Loki dismisses the whistling or doesn’t discover where it is coming from, but the conclusion strongly suggests that Keller is rescued.

Did you enjoy Prisoners, and what are your thoughts on the ending? You can now stream Prisoners on Netflix.

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