Sunday, 27 January 2019

Escape Room

To Room, It May Concern

Escape Room
2019 USA Directed by Adam Robitel
UK cinema release print.

Warning: A very minor spoiler in this.

Okay, yeah. This is not a bad effort on behalf of the cast and crew to create... well, it’s not actually a horror film but, yeah... a pretty good thriller which takes the old clich├ęd puzzle solving element of certain serial killer movies and presents it in a way that’s both effective and, it has to be said, quite intense in places.

After a bookend prologue and a preliminary series of sequences, which sets up three of the main protagonists, we have them and a few others invited to play an Escape Room style game with a hefty cash reward if your team makes it out of there alive. These games have, of course, become very popular over the last few years and I've also played two of them in London with some of my friends. I think that this whole idea of a team of contestants trying to solve clues to find their way out of a series of locked rooms all started as an entertaining thing to watch back in the early 1980s with the BBC TV show The Adventure Game (which I was fortunate enough to be able to review in its latest incarnation as a DVD box set here). Various similar things followed in its footsteps and it would be fair to say the modern thriller films like the Saw series, where victims try and escape from various death traps, are a similar cinematic trend.

Escape Room takes the game concept and does exactly this; turns every puzzle room in the suite into a death trap and... there are a couple of slight problems, to my mind, with the movie but they don’t detract from it being an intense and thoroughly entertaining ride of a film, it as to be said. And it cracks along at a fair pace too, with some scenes of almost unbearable suspense.

Surprisingly, for the subject matter, you don’t really see any major gory violence in the film at all and, thankfully, this really doesn’t hamper the movie in any way. Indeed, the director manages to make the whole ‘edge of your seat’ atmosphere of the film fairly bloodless while still keeping you worried about certain characters while knowing, all the while, the situation that one of those characters is going to find themselves in when the film eventually catches up to the opening sequences. It’s a grim proposition, it has to be said, although I wasn’t fooled by certain aspects of that set up and I kinda knew that one of the supposedly dead characters would be returning at some point to act like the cavalry or, at the very least... survive.

However, the film did fool me in that I was pretty sure I knew what the twist ending was going to be but, when we get to that kind of point in the movie, it turned out there was no reveal at all. Everything in the film that’s presented from the start is absolutely all the given facts. So I’m kinda happy about that as I really didn’t need to see a certain solution to the events that take place over the course of the story turn out to be something which has been done to death in recent years on television.

I said there were a couple of weaknesses to the movie and one of those was the fact that we see a set up to three of the main characters. However, when everyone converges on the Escape Room of the title there are a few more characters added into the mix and, while the director does keep giving us little background flashbacks for each character’s back story... it’s pretty obvious that the last three left at one point will be the same three we were ‘briefed’ on by the director at the start of the story. So that was a bit of a telegraphed sequence of moments which I think could have probably been avoidable if the film makers had thought about it.

The other thing I was not so hot on was the last ten minutes of the movie. Once whoever is getting out is out, the director spends an awful long time setting up a very contrived feeling sequence to give the audience a possibility of a sequel, should the time come and this film has sufficient box office clout. Not only that but the last two minutes even shows us... and this is crazy... how the next movie, or at least the next story beats, would play out and so, by this point, I don’t even need to watch the sequel because I already know the plot set up.

That being said though, it didn’t really detract from the sheer intensity of the piece and Escape Room has a lot to recommend it to fans of films like Cube, even with the lack of violence in it. You have some nice sets with some nice puzzles, a whole load of good actors including those main three played by Taylor Russell, Logan Miller and Jay Ellis... not to mention Tyler Labine, who played Dale in Tucker And Dale Versus Evil (which I reviewed here). Added to this we have an interesting score by Brian Tyler and John Carey which... well, there’s a heck of a lot going on in it and I’d need to listen to it divorced from the images to be able to judge it best but it certainly lifts the film a lot. Luckily, Sony Classical have released a CD of it although, sadly, Amazon says it will take two months to ship here for some reason.

However, add this fantastic and orchestrationally dense score to the mix of interesting actors and some quite nicely executed scenarios and, despite those one or two problems I mentioned earlier, you have a pretty good movie in Escape Room. When I went to a Cineworld premiere they had us all walk down a red carpet to receive a small sample of chocolate cake for some reason. I don’t know why they did that because it seemed to have nothing to do with the film and it wasn’t made clear to us just why we should be receiving such a freely given confection but, there you have it. One might think, if one was as suspicious as me, that it was meant to distract one from the quality of the film but, if that was the case, they needn’t have bothered. Escape Room is a solid thriller and I’d certainly recommend this one to people who are fans of piled on suspense in the movies. Just don’t expect a, literal, blood bath. Like I said, it’s not a horror movie... it’s a thriller.

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