The Escapist: Rupert Wyatt


by The Great White Gypsy


Where is Steve McQueen?

No, don’t tell me he’s dead, that was just a ruse (a cunning attempt to trick me).  He escaped from his coffin and is currently somewhere in Europe stealing paintings and prank calling Pierce Brosnan.

The escape genre has always held an allure for audiences.  Sure, Clint Eastwood had a great one in Escape from Alcatraz, even more so because it was a true story.  Steve McQueen made escapism even cooler than Harry Houdini, though, with his seminal classics Papillon and The Great Escape.  Then Prison Break went three seasons too long and ruined the genre (how the fuck do they keep getting locked in rooms?).  So when the Guy Ritchie-esque preview for The Escapist came out, I thought it would be the lock pick we needed to free us from the shackles of network television escapism.

I was wrong.

One of the newest additions to the IFC library (if you have Comcast on demand, it’s already there), The Escapist is the story of an old man (Brian Cox) who has been in an English prison for 14 years, without so much as a postcard.  One day, he receives a letter from his wife, telling him his daughter has drug-related health problems that could potentially kill her.  He decides that he must escape to see her one last time and “set everything right”.  So he rounds up a group of five inmates and sets the daring plan in motion.

Admittedly, virgin writer/director Rupert Wyatt gave a generally superficial plot a bit more substance and emotion.  The characters are all fairly interesting, the side plots aren’t cumbersome, and convincing Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) to get down and dirty as an incarcerated fighter is pretty cool.  Joe Walker’s editing was commendable – considering the film has two different timelines, as well as flashbacks and dreams – but not spectacular.  Unfortunately, I have to lay blame on Rupert Wyatt for writing this story, because I was actually enjoying it until the last 4 minutes.

Obviously I’m not going to ruin the ending; that would be criminal.  What I will say is that, up until the last few minutes, I said, “wow, for an indie prison escape film, this is pretty cool.”  When it was over, I said, “Wow, how interesting, I really liked that.”  Then, after I thought about it for 45 seconds, I said, “wait, I’ve seen that twist five thousand times, and this one was actually pretty weak.” (I talk to myself a lot).  My biggest complaint was the tie-ins between the two storylines; I thought they could have been much better, much clearer, and not so rushed.

As an IFC fan, I would say that you should check this one out.  Objectively speaking, it’s not horrible, and not everyone is a snob like me.  Just wait until the very end, and you will either think, “Man, that gypsy guy really knows his shit”, or possibly, “Hey, that was cool, that gypsy guy is a douche bag.”

That’s why God invented comments.

Final Grade: C

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