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Great movie that all comes together
Just when you thought it's another escape film, it's not. :)
"DRAMATIC | TENSE | WITTY | SOMBER | SUFFOCATING" (75-out-of-100)
"The Escapist" is a complex thriller that details the planning and execution of a prison escape. The complexity of the film comes from its non-sequential timeline which intermingles the scenes of each narrative. Both parts of the story occur in chronological order but their simultaneous presentation enhances the incredible twist ending. With this movie's unique script, odd musical score, and raw portrayal of prison life, it screams "indie film." The setting also breaks the mold of big-budget prison films, favoring an old stone jail over a high-tech, maximum security prison. It also has the high quality acting that we have come to expect from the indie film trend. I find Brian Cox to be an underrated actor and this role (that was specifically written for him) gives him an opportunity to shine. Amidst all of the naked butts that appear throughout the film, he plays his character with a consistent intensity that drives the film to its shocking conclusion. He is surrounded by a handful of those talented actors that you recognize from other films but you can't remember their names. As a unit, his crew becomes a character of its own. This "character" grows throughout the film as it deals with the internal conflicts of its diverse set of personalities. The film is above average in many respects but its only earth-shattering quality is its final four minutes. It is something that you just have to experience. It may be better to wait until you are an adult, as the content of the film has a lot of grit and is beyond the comprehension of younger audiences. "The Escapist" twists your mind with its unconventional timeline, but it all adds up in its final recapitulation which will have you rewinding to make sure that you understand what actually happened.
Good work all around with Cox's performance elevating it even further.
Walking the fine line between brilliance and obscurity, engagement and pretentious The Escapist transforms the standard prison-break drama into a metaphysical and existential study of freedom and reparation in the typically understated way only the British seem to accomplish.
The splendid interweaving of story with passively emotive and introspective characters and their poignantly uneasy relationships, teamed with a script devoid of clichés and a perfectly manicured outstanding cast, this celebration of the human spirit's noticeable capacity to transcend adversity in belief of necessity is truly captivating and riveting.
Aging but content lifer Frank Perry (played by esteemed Scottish actor Brian Cox) is jolted out of his passive solitude when a rare communiqué from the outside world informs him of his perilously drug-addicted daughter's second overdose.
Riddled with guilt, Frank is becomes stunned awake by the news, desparate to escape the daily routine of book-lending, laundry, dominos and stangnant non-progression to help his daughter on the outside. Urgently assembling a crew of tricky usual suspects, each of the four comrades is chosen on their ability to provide a vital element to the escapes success.
Ex-dour digger and close friend Brodie (Liam Cunningham) provides passage, denied parole and macho heavy hitter Lenny (Joseph Fiennes) brings brawn, canny contraband dealer and chemist Viv (Seu Jorge) aligns the exit strategy and fresh vulnerably inmate Lacey (Dominic Cooper) provides unsuspectingly answers to us the viewers.
In his approach, Frank is not only smart but canny. As a trusted old-timer, he utilises his unassuming status to secure hidden passages, acquire tools and suss the lay of the land without any resistance from authority.
However, as a new proactive force within the prison his subtle and underhanded deeds don't go unnoticed to other prisons and when Frank's cellmate Lacey attracts the sadistic attention of the maniacal and sadistic Tony (Steven Mackintosh), the no-account junkie brother of the ruthlessly unhinged prison boss Rizza (Damian Lewis) the groups plan comes under threat.
Attempting to protect there escape, Frank agrees to an arranged meeting for Tony with Lacey. However, when Lacey realises the intrusion and reacts by physically attacking Tony leaving him for dead, Rizza comes to Frank claiming an eye for an eye.
Director Rupert Wyatt keeps faces close and words to a minimum by structuring the escape and it's planning in parallel story lines, sharing the breadth of the screen time evenly and simultaneously. This cleverly crafted flashback style keeps the viewer guessing in the first half and empathetically attached to the characters in the second.
Effortlessly flowing from the two main storylines the subtext is gritty and full.
The internal relationships and brutal alliances in the gothic arena of a British prison as well as the camaraderie explored between the escapes during their frantic escape through the claustrophobic sewers and the grimy disused-since-the-war tube stations of London's underground once again brings more for viewers to sink into emotionally.
Cinematographer Philipp Blaubach conveys adequate misery and the true depravity of situation from setting the film in the grim decaying museum of iron stairways and low oppressive ceilings that is Kilmainhan Jail in Dublin (also the set of 1993's, In the Name of the Father).
Benjamin Wallfisch's artfully urgent and discordant score and minimal dialogue effortlessly and inoffensively delivered the aguish of its subject whist completely removing the need the often exploited need for disturbingly graphic scenes of the everyday tribulations and brutality of prison life.
Although the film is shamelessly based on prison stereotypes the consummate way in which the actors meaningfully send nods and grunts to the strangled genre in a time when people are looking to bright and glittery escapism is admirable.
The Verdict: Wringing jagged tension out of a fractured storyline can be strangely frustrating when done for fun not art, thankfully this film falls into the latter category. This strong piece of cinema provides audiences with a profound insight into the damaged and both mentally and physically painfully aware life of the incarcerated.
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 24/07/2009
For those who have seen more than two or three prison break movies in their lives, this mediocre film won't offer anything new even if it believes to be doing something pretty smart and profound with an annoying flashback structure and a silly Ambrose Bierce twist in the end.
I was a bit let down by this. Cox is magnificent but the story just didn't work for me and it kind of dragged. Enjoyable but it could have been so much better. Good support from Cunningham and Cooper.
Good little Irish/English prison break move, The twist ending makes it all the better.
Outstanding, helix-narrative prison break thriller--A Thrilling-Lynchian Attack On The Senses!!