Film Review – Escape Plan
We realize Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teaming up in a movie would cause excitement…if this were twenty years ago. Once upon a time, these two were at the top of the action hero food chain. Now, they have been regulated to smaller projects, each with varying degrees of quality. I walked into Escape Plan with the lowest expectations possible, and you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. Clearly, they are not the same people who starred in Commando (1985) or the Rambo series, and that’s okay. I don’t think anyone is expecting that, but if you’re looking to be entertained, you’ll get your money’s worth. Directed by Mikael Håfström and written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, this is an enjoyable action thriller with a cast noticeably having a good time. There’s no getting around it: I liked this one.
Posters and advertisements would have us believe Stallone and Schwarzenegger share top billing, but in reality Stallone is the main character. He plays Ray Breslin, an escape artist who makes a living breaking out of maximum-security prisons. Breslin is a master, even writing the definitive book on high-level security. With the help of his coworkers Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), Abigail (Amy Ryan), and Lester (Vincent D’Onofrio), Breslin tests each prison by going undercover as a criminal, finding the weak spots, and then exploiting them. An opportunity comes in the form of a top-secret facility—one for which even the location cannot be revealed—but whose offer is too tempting to reject. The plan should go smoothly, but does any movie plan ever go smoothly? Before Ray realizes it, all of his contacts disappear, his communications go down, and his whereabouts become unknown. He finds himself locked in a prison with some of the most ruthless criminals in the world.
This prison is something else, nicknamed “The Tomb” for good reason. The production team did a good job in designing a set where transparency is key. Every cell is made up of glass walls, the inmates are monitored at every single moment, and the guards prevent themselves from being recognized by wearing spiffy black masks. I wonder what kind of funding this place gets, since it looks to be running on the latest technology available. The warden is Willard Hobbs (Jim Caviezel), a mean S.O.B. who rules the facility with an iron fist. Caviezel plays Hobbs as an eccentric weirdo. When not constantly caressing his fine tailored suits, Hobbs spends his time torturing the inmates for information. This includes tossing them in solitary confinement and shining a burning hot light on them.
It’s explained that one of the key ingredients of a successful escape is a contact on either the inside or the outside. This is where we meet Schwarzenegger, who plays fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer. Emil has been in The Tomb for six months, and almost immediately attaches himself to Ray in the hopes of freedom. I have not seen Schwarzenegger this funny or charismatic in a long time. Not since True Lies (1994) has he been so watchable. It goes to show how much screen presence the guy really has; he steals scenes with one-liners and comedic timing. But Schwarzenegger doesn’t just play the role for laughs. Emil is smart and observant, and picks up on Ray’s advice like a sponge. He can play subtle when needed, or go over the top to cause a distraction. Of course, being Schwarzenegger, he can kick some butt, as well. In one scene, Schwarzenegger is called upon to bring back his old badass persona, and he delivers in spades. Håfström magnifies the moment tenfold, reminding the audience that Schwarzenegger once was (and, in a way, still is) a force to be reckoned with.
The plot is absolutely preposterous. Common sense negates nearly every action or decision made. The numerous twists and turns make little sense, and when the final reveal came, I was left more confused than anything else. Ray—as a character—is superhuman in how he analyzes everything about the prison. By sniffing the air, flushing a toilet, and getting a view of the night sky, he can deduce where his location is with scary accuracy. His mind works like a blueprint; he picks up the habits of every guard and inmate to the millisecond, so he can tell when and how he needs to make his escape. This is the stuff of movies, because there is no way he could accomplish these things without major flights of fancy. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s easier to accept the ridiculous nature when the filmmakers’ approach shows awareness to tone. This is not a realistic plot, but it is a fun one, and the production team made the most out of the material provided.
Escape Plan is not going to change action movies, but it’s a decent entry. Even though the leading stars are way past their prime, they provide good performances with surprising effectiveness.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0Jp8VUFrD4&w=560&h=315]