By now I thought I have heard about all prison movies worth watching but I somehow missed The Escapist. I can see why though because it features a different kind of atmosphere and storytelling. It’s more of an indie movie about redemption, love, and regret than a gritty prison movie. Although there will be some fucked up stuff, don’t you worry. So, if you’re looking for a break from the usual formula most of these movies use, The Escapist is a perfect choice. The storytelling is the nonlinear meaning we will be at the same time following both the escape and events leading up to it.
The thing I liked the most about this movie is its cast. Led by the immortal Brian Cox they’ve done a terrific job. Joseph Fiennes, Damian Lewis, and Liam Cunningham will make you wonder how on Earth didn’t you hear about the movie The Escapist earlier. Now, the atmosphere is a bit quirky and the levels of testosterone are not where you expect them to be, so you’ll need to get used to this. Once you do, pay attention to the story because this is more than just a prison break movie.
Speaking of which, the actual prison looks stunning oozing with history and authenticity. The Escapist was shot at Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol prison, now a functional museum. Built in 1796, it was like another character with a story to tell. Its general outlook and a couple of scenes reminded me of The Hole, one of the best prison escape movies. The dank walls, huge central area, and weathered bars of steel are a perfect setting for one of those prison fight movies like Undisputed.
Frank Perry has made peace with the life sentence he’s currently serving. He doesn’t concern himself much with the harsh realities of life in prison. The only thing he cares about is his daughter and she’s not well. She’s a drug addict and it’s only a matter of time before he loses her. So, he devises a plan to escape the prison with a couple of other inmates. The plan is simple and effective but will he get out of time to meet with his daughter?
I know that the constant cutting back and forth between the escape and previous events might annoy you but it will all pay off in the end. It might even make you watch the movie all over again just to get all the subtle clues to what’s coming. The script is well-written without filler conversations or over-the-top lines. However, a couple of concepts feel a bit off. The prison hierarchy, drug manufacturing, and security measures to name a few. Now, they could’ve come up with reasonable explanations for all of these. Unfortunately, they didn’t so you’ll either have to suspend your belief or come up with them on your own.
Ultimately, these are just relatively minor flaws in an otherwise quite sturdy prison movie. With a running time of just over 95 minutes, The Escapist is a perfect warmup movie to kickstart your prison movie night with a bang.
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers: Daniel Hardy, Rupert Wyatt
Cast: Brian Cox, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Liam Cunningham, Seu Jorge, Dominic Cooper
Fun Facts: Director Rupert Wyatt revealed on the DVD commentary that Damian Lewis wore ladies underwear throughout filming.