Sunday, January 6, 2019

Escape Room


Six strangers are sent fancy invitations to try out a new state-of-the-art escape room that's yet to be solved, with a prize of $10,000 for anyone who wins. While in the waiting room, they discover that the game has already started, and later, when the first of them die, they realize there's more at stake than an opportunity to win big.

Like... they could also DIE. So that's fun.

The initial, and only significant problem, is simply that I watched the trailer. I wouldn't say it revealed too much as you have to entice people somehow, but a side effect of it getting me to buy a ticket is that I knew more or less what would happen for the first thirty minutes or more. There was still details to see and characters to get to know, but it killed suspense and surprises more than a few times. So I recommend avoiding it, if you have so far. The movie is a pure-blooded, small-scale, gimmicky thriller and works well within those parameters.

A classic January thriller, and maybe it's the expectation of the month talking, but it wound up being better than your average beginning-of-the-year fare. Each of the six have a backstory -- a reason to be there, both thematically and structurally. They play off each other excellently, and probably the most fun thing about the film is how they argue and interact. I found them all interesting to a degree, and had a couple favorites to root for too. The movie isn't groundbreaking, and certainly not high art, but it crafts thrills to be sufficiently tense while not forgetting that it's entertainment. It's fun to watch, all the way through; know as you might that what you're watching isn't of particular high quality.

They sure do make good use of the certainly small budget though.

Still it has all the required pieces, and the pieces only seem to be ill-fitting once or twice. The ending, for instance, felt rushed and weak compared to the rest; but it's not the sort of movie that banks on the ending. If it meant to have shocking twists, I saw through them, but I never felt a lack because of that. Not all thrillers need a massive twist, and this one gets by on what you see. Namely, its characters, and its set pieces. Even with previews of what the sets looked like, it was still great fun watching the characters navigate them. None lasted to long or felt under-explored. The clues were perhaps simple, but making them easy to follow was the right choice for what the movie wanted to be.

The characters are: Zoey, played by Taylor Russell, who I recognized from Netflix's Lost in Space. She was good to the point of if I see her name for another film it will be a drawing factor for me. Also, Logan Miller as Ben. I've seen him in a few things, but he makes himself worthy of notice here for the first time. Deborah Ann Woll is Amanda, and though the actress was the most familiar to me because of Daredevil, she wound up being the biggest surprise. Then there is Tyler Labine as Mike who seems like he might just be filler, but makes himself stand out; Nik Dodani as Danny, who was amusingly annoying; and Jay Ellis as Jason. He was interesting, and that's all I'll say. The film never delves too deeply into their stories, but we do get a strong sense of who they are, and I found it easy to care for them.

But not so much that it was a buzzkill at deaths.

Obviously, this isn't a movie you shouldn't expect too much out of. It's not going to blow your mind with its plot, or present you with moving themes or award-worthy performances; but if you enjoy the genre, and gauge your expectations properly, this a diverting and fun time. It's paced excellently to hold tension and attention, and there aren't any glaring flaws to take you out of it all. As long as you're willing to suspend your disbelief, and are prepared for something a little over-the-top, I think you'll be humored with a film that is sincerely out to thrill and entertain, not just trick folks into wasting their money.

So no, it's not just the traditionally garbage month talking when I say this one earns a recommendation from me. 3/5. Would escape again.

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