The Escapist (2008)

I remember seeing this film advertised and thinking nothing of it really. I had gone through a phase of watching and loving prison break movies, but this just didn’t spark with me. Yesterday, while at the cinemas waiting to see Sleeping Beauty, I came across this on DVD, wrote the name down, and finally watched the film. Holy mother of freaking crap, people.

Frank Perry (Brian Cox) and four other convicts serving between 7 years and life without parole, plan an escape from prison. But planning and executing are two entirely different things…

I guess that’s as much as I can say without getting too into the storyline and without giving much away. I guess if I were to summarize this film in a sentence it would be “this film is bloody brilliant and I can’t wait to finish writing this review so I can watch it again.”

First and foremost: the characters. There are 5 escapees but a few other characters that crop up throughout that film that are pivotal in the plan succeeding or failing. But let’s concentrate on the five, shall we? As with all prison movies, they all want to get out, and all for (usually) the same reason: life without parole, rape in the showers, general want to be free and so forth. This film isn’t original with its reasons either, but that doesn’t matter since the characters are so well crafted. The operation begins with three: Frank, who needs to get out to see his daughter who is in hospital after a drug overdose, Brodie (Liam Cunningham) who is serving life without parole (never explained what for), and Lenny Drake (Joseph Fiennes) serving 7 years for theft. As the three of them plan an escape, two others join the run: one for bargaining purposes against another inmate who is causing Frank trouble, Viv Batista (Seu Jorge), a drug runner within the prison, and Frank’s room mate James Lacey (Dominic Cooper), a new kid struggling to keep his sanity.

I have to say, one thing I loved about this movie was its realism. The group of escapees don’t like each other. Some have mutual respect for one another, but they aren’t friends. They’re inmates in a prison serving sentences for their own crimes. The guards turn a blind eye to many a happening in the prison, such as the fights between inmates that other prisoners gamble on and the rapes which they pretend to not see. Some prisoners are high enough in the hierarchy to have power over the guards. The source of this power, again, is not explained, but is most certainly something that goes on in real prisons. So again, serious kudos from me. Also, the escape itself is not easy.

Like I said, I went through a phase of loving the genre. I watched most of Prison Break, I had an unhealthy obsession with the film The Rock and the miniseries Colditz, I’ve read about many real escapes from prison, read The Count of Monte Cristo when I was about 15 and watched Shawshank Redemption quite a bit. All the escapes I’ve seen or read about have been, for lack of a better word, fucken insane. It’s beyond me how resilient people can be when they want to be, and some of the things these prisoners go through to get out… holy damn. This film is no different. The plan is intricate, it’s complex, it’s heavily reliant on time and silence and SUCCESS on everyone’s part… it’s an escape that hangs in the balance with every second. I can honestly say that for the last few parts (I’ll explain what I mean by “parts” in just a minute) I was holding my breath and clinging to the covers. It was intense.

Now, “parts”. The film is unique, well, at least I think so, in that it isn’t a linear storyline. The film is intercut with the escape itself and the leadup to it. Quite often you’ll be watching part of an escape that makes no sense until you see the planning part for it right after. Because of this, everything’s a little tilted. You know exactly who is in on the plan, you know what they can do, but you don’t know why. You understand that some things had been planned and others had happened accidentally. Towards the end, you start seeing patterns between the escape and the planning that technically shouldn’t exist at all due to sheer logic, but believe me that by the time the credits roll everything makes perfect, shocking sense.

And the ending… well… the ending is just something you’ll have to watch the film for, isn’t it?

Overall I call this truly a “stunning film”. I love it so much I am actually recommending it actively to about 5 people as I type this through various mediums and social networks. Although I am crazily fangirling (there truly is no other word for it) and rate the film an impressive 8.5/10, it doesn’t make the top ten movies of all time for me. It’s truly brilliant, but something’s missing for it to make the cut. Call it an 11, if you will. It’s nearly there but… just… Anyway, this is recommended to anyone who is a fan of the genre, because this is gold class for prison-run movies. If you dislike violence, stay away. A lot is implied – such as the rapes, thankfully – but much is shown (such as the violence and numerous deaths). So if seeing people beaten to a pulp freaks you out, then maybe steer clear. Or watch the film through your fingers, I dunno. Just watch it, honestly.

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