Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent
Director: Mikael Håfström
Screenplay: Miles Chapman, Jason Keller, Miles Chapman
Action/Adventure/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Greg, is this really a Sylvester Stallone movie? Could this be Rocky 47?
No, it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, he did promise he’d be back.
We meet Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) who makes a good living by pretending to be an inmate in maximum security prisons and then breaking out of them, thus exposing their weaknesses. Breslin is offered his toughest assignment yet — he is to be inserted into a top-secret prison, whereabouts unknown, into which the world’s worst formidable terrorists and criminals disappear. His two allies in his business (Amy Ryan and 50 Cent) are wary of this assignment but his business partner (Vincent D’Onofrio) encourages him to take it. Breslin accepts the job.
Breslin is no sooner in this new prison than he learns he is intended to stay. The extraction codes that he was given don’t work. And the man who is supposed to be the warden is not there. All seems lost when he befriends Rottmayer ( Arnold Schwarzenegger ) who is a bit of a kingpin among the inmates. Together, they begin a plot to escape the apparently inescapable prison comprised of the worst of the worst.
Greg, this is one of those movies with a terrible trailer that had me dreading the idea of seeing this film. If the goal of the trailer was to lower my expectations to such a degree that the movie had to be a pleasant surprise, well, the plan worked. I enjoyed Escape Plan. Yes, it was a bit of a silly, unrealistic prison escape movie, which I’ve seen a hundred times before, but it was also well-made.
It was almost as if the trailer’s function was to portray Stallone and Schwarzenegger as the near-caricatures that they are, has-beens who can barely utter a line without us wincing, and far too old to get away with any movie action more strenuous than rocking in a rocking chair. But I have to admit, the movie worked and Sly and Arnold performed just fine, thank you very much.
I was less impressed. This film was working on two levels. On one level it’s an unbelievable though enjoyable action film. On the other, it is attempting to lay out the dangers of our penal system.
The idea that Stallone is locked up in a prison that contains people too dangerous to be trusted to standard prisons and who are incarcerated without due process mimics the Guantanamo Bay scenario. On top of that is the fact that this new prison is run by a contracted third party is reminiscent of recent problems with states who turn their prisons over to private corporations. These corporations have minimum occupancy requirements built into their contracts.
Escape Plan is definitely taking a swipe at these prison systems while entertaining us with some mindless action and one-liners. Whether they are successful or not I leave to the viewer.
For me, the movie works because Stallone as an actor has perfected the idea that, for him at least, less is more. He displays an appealing kind of minimalism in his delivery of lines that effectively portrays Breslin’s quiet confidence as a character. You could also call it a subtle charisma. We’re also witness to some very cool insights about how prison breakouts occur. Breslin’s job requires a certain genius that is fascinating to watch. The pacing of the movie is excellent; there were very few slow spots but not too much headache-inducing action, either.
Lately we’ve seen a lot of movies that are stories of survival – Gravity and Captain Phillips come to mind. And now we have Escape Plan, another movie that involves a hero escaping from horrible circumstances more than achieving anything that could be construed as heroic in the classic sense. A true hero story involves selfless action involving self-sacrifice. So I’m not convinced that these are genuine hero tales that we’ve been seeing lately.
Scott, therein lies another problem I have with this movie. Who are the heroes? Breslin is clearly an innocent victim, but he seeks help from inmates of this prison who are in for crimes that are never disclosed. Breslin has to befriend them to get assistance to get out. How heroic is it to spring evil-doers?
And, at the risk of spoiling a plot point, one of the inmates Breslin befriends is an unlikely hero. Breslin makes a deal with a muslim inmate Javed (Faran Tahir) who in turn makes a deal with the warren for time outside the prison so that he can make his prayers to Allah. In the end Javed makes escape possible for Breslin and Rottmayer. Usually we see muslims portrayed as evil terrorists with only selfish self-interest at heart. This is a pretty unusual turn for a muslim in an American film.
Escape Plan is indeed a good, entertaining, two-hour escape plan from reality. It’s a fun romp, made especially enjoyable by seeing that Stallone and Schwarzenegger still have something to offer even at the autumn of their careers. There are no Oscar winners here. Just a solid movie from start to finish. Escape Plan easily earns its 3 Reels out of 5.
The hero story is adequate but not nearly as strong as it could have been. Our hero Breslin does receive assistance and advice from several key characters, and there is a love interest, but I don’t seen much in the way of character transformation. I give Breslin a mere 2 Heroes out of 5.
I was at first drawn to this Breslin character. Unlike other Sylvester Stallone characters, Breslin relies almost exclusively on his intellect, despite that fact that he is clearly physically capable. But in the end (as the trailers expose) there is plenty of gun violence that supports his actions. As an action / adventure this is passable fare. I wish that if Hollywood is going to make a political point that the producers would make a serious film to do so. Sugar-coating politically charged issues with easy-to-watch teasers smacks of propaganda. I give Escape Plan 2 out of 5 Reels for a typical action flick.
Breslin works out as a pretty good hero, obtaining most of the Great Eight qualities you talk about in your books, Scott. However this is a dual-hero film with Rottmayer acting as the buddy. It’s unclear by the end of the film where his alliances and motivations fall. I give the pair only 2 Heroes out of 5.