Essay: Movie Trailer: Ethos, Pathos

Pages: 3 (1455 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Children  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Therefore, it is logical to assume that the trailer has something to do with the disappearance of the children. It is important for the trailer to establish that the assumption that the recreational vehicle was somehow linked to the girls' disappearance is a logical one.

Finally, the trailer transitions to pathos and begins playing on the emotions of the people viewing the trailer. Pathos refers to the eliciting of emotion, and it oftentimes trumps logical reasoning. First, it is important to note the visual changes in the trailers; the background lighting begins to get darker; some of the scenes are nighttime shots, but regardless of time of day, the light appears darker. The trailer also introduces a musical background that sounds ominous and threatening. Furthermore, the trailer introduces Detective Loki, and seems to portray him as a dispassionate man, who may or may not be coldly competent. The portrayals of Loki not only highlight his cold competence, but also set him up as a foil for the emotional involvement that Keller exhibits while trying to find his daughter. The next scene features Detective Loki approaching the recreational vehicle in the middle of a rainstorm. Ominous music begins to play in the background, suggesting that there is danger involved in this scene, and also hinting at the notion that the cold-appearing Loki may be hiding a deeper emotional core. The audience begins to empathize with Loki, understanding that a cold exterior is probably necessary for a man hunting for missing children. The scene also has sharp visual contrast; a dark Detective Loki backlight by light, and then the suspect saturated with light, not in an artistic way, but realistically depicting how a bright flashlight would highlight a person outside on a rain-soaked night. The suspect is apprehended, but he claims not to have information about the missing girls. The trailer shows a desperate Keller trying to ensure that the suspect would stay in custody until the girls are found, and the other family hugging at what appears to be a vigil for the girls. Those few scenes begin to convey the terror the parents must feel at having their children missing. So, when Keller's character goes to the police station and attacks the suspect, demanding to know where the girls are, the actions do not seem disproportionate. Any parent watching the trailer knows that the logical rules of the law have no bearing on what a parent would or would not do to find a missing child. In this way, the trailer has used ethos and logos to build to a realistic pathos that makes the intended audience identify with Keller.

However, it is then that the trailer, suspenseful music building and quickening in the background, reintroduces logos. It shows scenes of Detective Loki going into the house of a different person, and then aggressively questioning that suspect at the police station. Like the characters in the movie appear to be, the audience is confused. If the detective has a new suspect, then one might assume that the first suspect has been cleared. However, the emotion of the situation is clearly beginning to cloud logical thinking; the other man was apprehended in the recreational vehicle that was located near where the children were taken. Furthermore, Loki is shown destroying property in the police building. This suggests that even the coldly logical seeming Loki is not immune from emotion, making the audience wonder if he is making mistakes.

Rather than relying on a single device, the trailer for Prisoners uses pathos and logos to help establish the pathos it needs to appeal to its targeted demographic. It begins by introducing the audience to the main characters: normal families enjoying a holiday meal. This establishes the ethos of the characters as everyday people. Next, it injects logos into the scenario, not only by establishing the logical link between the recreational vehicle and the girls' disappearance, but also by introducing the cold-seeming detective. Finally, it employs pathos, by showing the descent into emotion that one would expect if a child was taken. Combined together, the trailer uses these three elements to create one of the most compelling movie trailers that this author has ever seen.

Works Cited

Alcon Entertainment. "Prisoners Trailer." Yahoo Movies. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013.

Edlund, John. "Ethos, Logos, Pathos: Three Ways to Persuade. California State University.


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APA Format

Movie Trailer: Ethos, Pathos.  (2013, October 16).  Retrieved September 16, 2019, from

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"Movie Trailer: Ethos, Pathos."  16 October 2013.  Web.  16 September 2019. <>.

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"Movie Trailer: Ethos, Pathos."  October 16, 2013.  Accessed September 16, 2019.