Escape Room (2019)
Director: Adam Robitel
Starring: Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Tyler Labine, Nik Dodani, and Jay Elliss
A few friends of mine invited me to go to an escape room outside Atlanta this past weekend, but I had to beg off. It’s not because puzzles annoy me though, but because I was already seeing Escape Room and I was pretty sure it was going to dampen my interest in visiting one in real life for awhile. The movie itself was a fun romp, though they never use the cute/creepy song from the trailers. The Characters are enjoyable, and the puzzles are genuinely interesting. My theater cheered twice during the film, and I heard gasps and yells as well. It’s an engaging film, but not gory like any of the Saw or Hostel films. This is puzzle solving with deadly consequences. It’s a delight.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
When I say the characters are engaging, I really mean it. The film takes its time introducing three of them, then introduces the others more quickly. I appreciated this, because it made me actually care about their safety and feel invested in the high stakes. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tyler Labine (Tucker and Dale Versus Evil), and he handled his character Mike with just the right balance of charm. Honestly though, all of the actors were spot-on. Jay Ellis (Jason) was a standout as a business executive channeling American Psycho – the characters’ observation, not mine! — as was Deborah Ann Woll (Amanda) in one of the best handlings of veteran PTSD that I’ve seen in years. There will be debate about Zoey (Taylor Russell) and I’m curious to hear what people think of her handling of one particular situation.
The set design was intense and varied, ranging from a cool urban palette to psychedelic shock. The colors reflected the characters’ moods and sense of agency, and it worked on a fine level for the audience to fully latch onto the characters. Love them or hate them, we understand them. I really appreciated the tiny details in each set and how the nature of the puzzles meant both the characters and the audience had to examine those details closely. We were solving the puzzles right alongside them, and their decisions were mostly logical. The editing is clean and the camera work fits the film. It’s certainly one I’d see again, and it’s worth seeing with friends for the after-movie discussions.
The films problems are both in some of the characters’ choices and any film with a big evil corporation at its heart: at some point, we have to work hard to suspend disbelief. But does that hurt the time, or does its imply reflect our own dissatisfaction with corporate control of our lives? That’s a puzzle I can’t solve. It’s simply a matter of taste.