Rhetorical Analysis of Movie Trailer Prisoners 2013 Essay

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Movie Trailer: Ethos, Pathos, & Logos

The trailer for the movie Prisoners effectively uses ethos, pathos, and logos to appeal to its potential audience. It uses ethos by demonstrating brief vignettes of family life to help establish the character of the main characters in the movie, as well as showing the police officer, and the suspect in the abduction. It uses logos to demonstrate that the father's conclusion that the girls were taken by the driver of the recreational vehicle have a basis in logic. It uses pathos by revealing that a child has been taken; few things are rifer with emotion than the idea of an abducted child. All three devices are traditionally used, in various degrees, by filmmakers hoping to establish an interested audience for their movies through trailers. By using all three rhetorical devices, the filmmaker creates a broad-based appeal, demonstrating that the film should be interesting to a large audience. However, the trailer also specifically targets an adult demographic. By playing on the worst fears of parents, who are most likely to fall into the 25- to 40-year-old demographic, the trailer uses ethos and logos to establish the basis for the pathos it utilizes to create interest in the characters.

The trailer uses ethos to demonstrate that the characters are relatable to the targeted demographic, which makes it easier to establish the pathos that drives the trailer. Ethos refers to character, and, in a movie, refers to how that character would be interpreted by an audience (Edlund). In this trailer, the character of the movie's lead, Hugh Jackman, is not fleshed out substantially. The trailer does not reveal what his character, Keller, does for a living or other details that would provide insight into his character. However, what it does reveal is powerful because it makes the character seem like he could be any father. This helps establish the basis of his character, making him relatable to the targeted demographic of relatively young adults with young children. The trailer opens up with a scene of a father lifting his very young daughter to his shoulders as they walk through their neighborhood to the home of some friends. It is an everyday gesture that every parent, whether a father or mother, can recognize. The family, which consists of a mother, father, older brother, and younger sister, head a home of some friends, where they are gathering to eat what appears to be a holiday meal together. It appears to be fall or early winter, and the hues used in the background suggest a dreary day, making it difficult to pinpoint time, though there is ambient sunshine. While the trailer does not give an in-depth introduction to the characters of the fathers, it does show them as kind, caring men who enjoy the company of their family and close friends. In other words, they are exactly the same type of father that the filmmakers want to draw in to see the movie. The father portrayed by Hugh Jackman engages in the type of casual affection with his daughter and his wife that makes him seem like everyman. The father portrayed by Terrence Howard is shown as being warm, loving, and with an almost banal pride in playing his trumpet. The mothers seem concerned; they tell the children to wear hats to protect them from the cold, but allow them to go to another house. The families are likeable, and, if not flawless, they appear real and credible.

Next, the trailer begins to add the logos that makes the assumptions made by Keller seem reasonable and believable. Only by showing Keller as a reasonable character is it possible to get the audience to empathize with him. Logos refers to logical reasoning and is meant to appeal to the logical side of a human audience (Edlund). The girls ask their parents if they can leave and go to the other family's home to look for something. The trailer shows the girls running through a yard, then the appearance of a dirty-looking recreational vehicle. The appearance of the vehicle, juxtaposed with the following scenes in which the girls are revealed to be missing are provided to give the audience a logical clue. The girls disappeared around the same time of the vehicle's movement, and the next scene in the trailer shows the parents discovering that the girls are…[continue]

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