Continuing the trend of making engaging productions out of the concept of a prison break, The Escapist
earns extra bonus points by throwing in a meaty role for Brian Cox in the process. He plays Frank Perry, a prisoner who’s 12 years into his sentence with no hope of parole. Yet when his daughter becomes ill, he realises that he needs to be on the other side of the walls, and sets about hatching a plan to make that possible. In short, the break is on…
Naturally, the master plan involves bringing together a mismatch of fellow prisoners to help, and The Escapist then follows their attempts to break out. Standing in their way? Damian Lewis’ sinister turn as Rizza, a threat more potent than any guard.
Grounded on a solid script, The Escapist has plenty in its corner. Debut director Rupert Wyatt (who co-wrote the script) knows not to overcook his ingredients, and thus demonstrates commendably restraint, which really pays off when he needs to ratchet up some menace and tension. And then there’s the cast, led superbly by Brian Cox. Cox deserves far more roles of this quality, because he’s quite magnificent here, single-handedly lifting the film from a firm rental to a must-see.
That said, The Escapist works in many different ways, and proves that Britain can deliver a prison break as compelling and interesting as any Hollywood can offer. An easy recommendation. --Jon Foster