26 June 2008 | Digsys_Dinner
A Thrilling-Lynchian Attack On The Senses!
It was only yesterday that I had the chance to watch a film that is little known, yet somehow managed to make it to my nearest Vue cinema in-between some of the current, perhaps contrived blockbusters that are on our screens currently. So it was only with great surprise that this film, which I had heard great things about after it debuted earlier this year at Sundance had a screening, after some persuasive actions on a friend, I was able to settle down for what I hoped would turn out to be a memorable prison film. At a first glance The Escapist would appear to be your usual affair of a prison drama, however Rupert Wyatt has done far more than that in this wonderful existential, puzzle box of a film, it drives on with true mystique and leaves you as the viewer questioning the true structure of the narrative as it thrives you along to the thrilling, lynchian climax.
The opening of the film begins the puzzle with what appears at first to be a strange narrative choice, you join a number of inmates that are seemingly in the midst of a prison break. The thumping electronic score sets your heart racing with a mixture of confusion and interest. Just as you think your in the middle of the escape, the director makes what seems to be a very questionable editing choice. He appearingly jump cuts back in time, before the escape. The film itself constantly jumps between the escape and the lead up to the escape. Throughout the first half of the film I must admit I found this seemed to hurt the pace of the film, but that's only if you take this as a conventional Prison-Escape film. This isn't Escape From Alcatraz. And this narrative style that is explored through the film becomes clear more and really begins to pick up the pace in the second half, and the climax of the film really does show this choice of structure really did compliment the story. You genuinely are knocked out by the films climax, it's on the same level as Memento, and you feel equally fulfilled by the end of The Escapist.
The cast is really five star, lead by the wonderfully diverse Brian Cox as the haunted, subdued life sentence serving inmate Frank Perry. Arguably his career defining performance. He brings multiple layers to the character impressively without much dialogue, it's a powerful, albeit silent performance for the most part, but you genuinely feel for his character, and without giving anything away you will understand why when you do see the film, as the main story point is what leads to the engineering of the escape. Cox is joined by a fantastic supporting cast of some of the finest English actors around today. For the most part there appearances are often short, but there screen time does more than enough to create the tense, look behind your back atmosphere you would expect in any prison film. Steven Mackintosh gives a chilling performance as the stereotypical inmate that is always the prisons big bad. He takes a distinct liking towards Perrys new cellie, with some unnerving results. His fictional older brother in the film, the "leader" of the cell block is played by the wonderful Damian Lewis who I became a big fan of after Band Of Brothers. He has considerably less screen time here but for me, his chilling stares, and few words were some of the most memorable for me after the credits rolled.
The cinematography of the film is quite simply incredible. With a bleak grey tone to the film that keeps the existential atmosphere brooding in the background. Much of the film takes place in vast maze's of underground tunnel works. The filmmakers managed to captured a claustrophobic feel towards the ongoing story. Full of black shadows and long, seemingly endless age old tunnels that are barely lit by the flickering orange flame from their cell-made torch's. The cinematography really helps compliment the enclosure of the prison, both inside it, as well as the escape. Their really isn't anywhere to go, its dark, brooding, and downright terrifying. As you would expect a prison to be! The Escapist really is a revelation in regards of modern cinema. It just reels you into the story from the get go and takes you on a bleak ride through the dark underbelly of the prison, metaphorical in its tone, Rupert Wyatt really has crafted something wonderful here. The film defiantly leaves you with that deep satisfaction that Britain has been getting some blisteringly good films as of late, alongside films like Dead Man Shoes, it gives you the sense that there is still a lot of great to come.