Escape Room sees a group of strangers invited to attempt a state of the art escape room with a payout of $10,000 to the winner. What the group doesn’t know is that they aren’t only competing for a cash prize, they will also be fighting for their very survival as they navigate their way through a series of dangerous puzzle-filled rooms. Can they make it out alive or will each of them become a victim of one of the many lethal rooms?
First off, I’m glad to see that director Adam Robitel and screenwriters Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik went with the model of strangers meeting for the first time in an escape room. It clearly differentiates this picture from the awful 2017 film of the same name that saw a group of friends taking on an escape room and succumbing to a series of lame traps. (See my review of that massive disappointment here). The dynamic of a series of strangers having to come together to solve each room worked remarkably well and allowed for surprisingly good character development that we may not have otherwise seen.
Escape Room features a fun, interesting, dynamic cast of characters. Some of the typical stereotypes are present but each character is nonetheless interesting and their interactions are fun to watch. The notion that each of the characters is based on some kind of archetype is even playfully nodded to by the writers when one of the characters sums up each of his costars using a single sentence.
Expounding upon what I said above, Robitel and company did a great job of featuring a diverse cast, including not one but two primary black cast members. Moreover, the female characters frequently demonstrate themselves to be the strongest, smartest, and most capable in the film. In one scene, Zoe (Taylor Russell) even tells one of the men to stop telling her to calm down. In another, Iraq war vet Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) selflessly puts her life on the line to save other members of the group without giving it a second thought. There’s a clear message of female empowerment written into the script. The women live and die on their own terms and it is often the females of the group that come to the rescue of their male counterparts. This is precisely what we need to see more filmmakers doing and my hat is off to the creative team behind the picture for straying from the typical White Bread, male dominated formula that has been used to develop feature films for so long.
Although there is a certain adherence to archetypical characters, nearly every key player in the film is fleshed out via a compelling back story and the audience really comes to know and even [gasp] care about the escape room participants.
I was initially concerned by the film’s multiplex friendly PG-13 classification, but my worries were promptly assuaged. Although the death scenes aren’t overly gory, that doesn’t detract from the film as a whole. If anything, it adds to it. The flick is brimming with tension and excitement. And the characters are likable enough that I actually didn’t want to see them die. So, I was ultimately grateful that I didn’t have to see them meet with a graphic demise when their time came.
I am truly in awe of the film’s set design. The rooms are incredibly dynamic and well thought out. All aspects of the set decoration were incredible. I can’t imagine how many hours, days, and months of planning and building went into the setup of each room. The upside down room was a particularly impressive feat.
I don’t have a lot of complaints. My only real criticisms are that the limited CGI that was used is pretty poor. But fortunately, there’s not a whole lot of it. And of course, it goes without saying that the setup requires some pretty serious suspension of disbelief. But, as escapism entertainment, the film works quite nicely.
The ending hints at the possibility of a sequel, which has actually already been greenlit by Sony. Not a huge surprise, with the film grossing over $150 Million worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo) on a budget of $9 Million. I would love to see a continuation that recaptures what made this film great: A fantastic script, likable characters, and exceptional set design.
The special features on the home video release are highly satisfying. I was thrilled that there was an entire featurette digging into the film’s amazing set design. Additionally, there is an insightful featurette on the cast and the impressive backstory assigned to each of them. In said featurette, the cast members open up about bringing their characters to life and the process behind doing so. There are also a series of deleted scenes, including an alternate opening that gives away too many surprises that are revealed later on and was smartly replaced with a flash forward sequence. In addition, there is an alternate ending that lacks the punch of the finale sequence that was actually included in the final version of the picture. Escape Room is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and DigitalHD. I would highly recommend giving it a look.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10
Director(s): Adam Robitel
Writer(s): Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik
Stars: Taylor Russell, Deborah Ann Woll, Logan Miller, Tyler Labine, and Jay Ellis
Release: April 23, 2019 (Home Video)
Studio/ Production Co: Columbia Pictures