Intuition. If you ask cognitive scientists to explain they will cobble together any number of $10-words to describe the collective assembly and integration of experiential information into a body of knowledge, which you may not be able to articulate. Intuition, however, is not evidence and it does not stand up to scientific rigor.
In Prisoners, like most crime dramas, intuition is pitted against evidence resulting in tense, situational drama which will surprise and sometimes disgust. Scene: two children go missing, the town is worried, the police are investigating. One father waits nervously for evidence but the other acts on intuition. The rest is a curve-laden who-dunnit. But when the perp is revealed I was confused and somewhat ambivalent since not much character development had been done for this person and the motive seemed thin.
Acting is good all around from Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackson and an unrecognizable Maria Bello. However, for me the show stealer was Viola Davis, who with very little screen time, beautifully portrayed a mother stuck on moral flypaper; desiring resolution but rejecting the methods for doing so.
Directing is good but odd; violence and emotional outbursts are injected unapologetically without warning; obligatory paper tigers. However, the texture and composition of scenes were elaborately constructed; framing, lighting and a David-Lynch-esque soundtrack convey an omnipresent sense of discord and suspense.
Prisoners is a good film, however unsettling, but I seriously doubt, despite the Oscar buzz, it will receive any awards.