The Escapist
dir Rupert Wyatt
scr Rupert Wyatt, Daniel Hardy
with Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Steven Mackintosh, Dominic Cooper, Liam Cunningham, Joseph Fiennes, Seu Jorge, Jack Walsh, George Seremba, Vinnie McCabe, Bernadette McKenna, Eleanor McLynn
releaseUK 20.Jun.08, US 27.Mar.09
08/Ireland Vertigo 1h39
The Escapist
Get me out of here: Fiennes, Cox and Cunningham

lewis mackintosh cooper
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Escapist There's a strong sense of style to this prison-break thriller, plus a few strongly sympathetic characters and some nifty twists. On the other hand, it's also wilfully vague and oddly introspective for a caper adventure.

Frank Perry (Cox) has done 14 years of his life sentence, and he's just learned that his daughter is in trouble with drugs. Determined to get out of his London prison to rescue her, he enlists the help of another inmate (Fiennes) who specialises in breakouts, plus an old friend (Cunningham) who knows his way through the underground tunnels. But the cellblock is run by two vicious thugs (Lewis and Mackintosh) who don't like anyone doing anything behind their backs. And they both have issues with Frank's new cellmate (Cooper).

Director-cowriter Wyatt creates a steely, hard prison atmosphere with bleak cinematography and energetic performances. We vividly feel the hunger in the inmates' eyes as they spy fresh meat arriving on the scene in the form of pretty boy Cooper. And the secret society's rules and punishments highlight the danger everyone faces, including those at the top of the heap. As we watch them planning, Wyatt edits in glimpses of the escape to come, which adds an intriguing sense of foreboding--both hope and despair.

The cast makes the film more than watchable with intriguingly layered performances as men who are constantly playing a role that probably has nothing to do with who they actually are. This also allows British actors like Lewis, Mackintosh and Fiennes to go for broke as cocky thugs who are slick and often a bit crazed: tough-guy posturing that covers up their desperate survival instincts. Amid this, Cox and Cooper are able to offer more sensitive and engaging characters.

Meanwhile, Wyatt continually undermines us with surprise twists, deliberate red herrings and intense close-up camerawork that doesn't let us see the whole picture until he's ready. These things can be a bit frustrating for the audience, since we're often not quite sure what's actually happening, especially when some key events take place off camera while other scenes exist only in the imaginations of the characters. But it really does all come together in the heart-stopping final sequence.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Jan.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Escapist Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall