Ray Breslin makes his living by breaking out of prisons – in fact, he write a book about it. When his latest job finds him stuck in an ultra-secure prison based on his own book, he must recruit help from fellow inmate Emil Rottmeyer to get out. With Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the roles, Escape Plan is the highly entertaining result.
Once upon a time, jailbreak movies were all the rage. They have the same requirements as heist movies – careful planning, suspenseful action and careful misdirection, and the chance for everything to go wrong and be saved by last minute improvisation.
The stage is set by showing Breslin (Stallone) in action – setting up and executing an escape from a maximum-security prison. This familiarizes with his three requirements for escape: a thorough knowledge of the layout; an equally thorough knowledge of the routines, and help from outside – or if not, from inside.
We also meet his co-workers – Abigail Ross (Amy Ryan), who’d like to be more than his business partner; Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), another partner in Breslin’s security company, in charge of developing new business, and Hush, the company’s computer engineer (cough*hacker*cough) – learn that his next job is for a prison built to house those who might pose the worst threat to national security.
Taking the pseudonym Porthos, berlin puts himself in position to be taken to this prison and it is unlike anything he’s ever seen before. Its layout is vertical and inmates are kept in transparent cells in pods of half-a-dozen – each pod well separated from the others. There are dozens of guards – all masked and well-armed. Amazingly, everything seems to be indoors – even when they’re in the yard, the inmates have a roof over their heads. Even the warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), is not the person Breslin was expecting.
With his usual means of escape not available to him, Breslin takes advantage of the opportunity to enlist the aid of Emil Rottmeyer (Schwarzenegger) – who prevents him being badly beaten on his first day). Rottmeyer seems to be the most feared man in the prison – and a bit of a scrounger – so he’s the perfect ally. Reveal follows reveal, with the biggest being the nature of the prison – something that so boggles Breslin’s mind that he almost gives up.
Both Stallone and Schwarzenegger have made careers of playing characters who were a lot smarter than they let on, but were still capable of bringing the thunder when necessary. So it is here – though the movie wouldn’t work if their adversary wasn’t at least as smart as they were.
Director Mikael Håfström (The Rite) takes a smart script by Miles Chapman (Cybergeddon) and Jason Keller (Mirror Mirror) and brings the big. There isn’t a prison Breslin can’t break out of; Rottmeyer is a criminal mastermind who is also the only person who can tell Hobbes where an even more legendary criminal mastermind Victor Mannheim is (why Hobbes needs to know this is never fully explained but given Hobbes’ behaviour, it’s not good).
Hobbes’ number one man, head of security, Drake (Vinnie Jones), is man who has mean streak that matches that of his boss. He really enjoys his job – especially when it entails breaking Breslin. Prison physician, Doctor Kyrie (Sam Neill), is a man who needs to be reminded of his Hippocratic Oath.
Fights, prison riots, gunplay and even a water tank all come into play.
Given that my expectations, going in, were not especially high, I found myself caught up in the proceedings. Escape Plan is smarter than I expected; funnier than I expected, and packs a lot into its two hours. I neither looked at my watch nor finished my drink – both signs that I had a good time.
I’m sure that I could pole holes in the plot, but the movie’s pace and spirit pretty much caused any plotholes to go by so quickly that they weren’t really be apparent until afterward. By that time, I’d had enough fun that they really didn’t matter – so I didn’t really think about them too much.
Final Grade: B+