Saturday, June 21, 2008

THE ESCAPIST - Best of British

THE ESCAPIST is an intelligent, imaginative take on the prison-break movie as exemplified by THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Indeed, this low budget British flick heavily references the cult classic, contrasting the savagery of prison life - drugs, rape, brutal violence - with religious imagery and martyrdom. The style, however, couldn't be more different. The sun-lit American prison is replaced with grungy British misery. And the straightforward linear style is replaced by a narrative that starts both at the beginning of the plot and at the beginning of the escape itself. We learn about the motivations of each participant as we watch their escape unfold. I found the method absolutely compelling and neat because it didn't diminish the suspense. The key question of whether or not the men would pull off their escape was still there till the end. But we also get a wonderful plot twist that asks more interesting and meaningful questions.

What else is there to love about this film? For a start, the performances are great. Brian Cox leadsfrom the front, but is upstaged by a quite sinister, physical performance from Steven Mackintosh as a rapist, junkie. The only false note was Damian Lewis trying to look hard with a half-baked working class accent. Still, not even that was enough to keep this film off my Best of 2008 list. Kudos to debutant feature writer-director Rupert Wyat.

THE ESCAPIST played Sundance and Dublin 2008 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in the Netherlands in February 2009.

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