At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Escape Room “2019”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Thriller/ Stars: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen/ Runtime: 100 minutes

I feel it is safe to say that 2019 was a year that was quite filled up with an array of familiar looking movie faces. Indeed this is was because quite a few established and set-up franchises were coming back for another year of either continuing their streak of movies released in the theaters or to start over seemingly completely from scratch with the dreaded reboot/reimagining protocol. Thus if you are one of the new kids on the block like Escape Room that is aiming to either make some big waves or at least attempting to make a modest amount of money at the box office then you need to be able to take advantage of an opportune moment when it is given to you. Thus I honestly think it really is for the best that this film was released in theaters in January. That is because despite making for an unusually decent movie to be released in the month of January, this movie would have been demolished had it arrived at any other point of time in the yearly movie release schedule.

The plot is as follows: Escape Room follows six strangers of varying ages, races, and backgrounds with no known connections to each other as they are all anonymously invited to take part in a situation that seems to be taking quite a few cues from the current craze that this film also borrows its title from. Upon arriving however, this ragtag group horrifically discovers that rather than just amusing riddles and headscratchers these are some very deadly games with potentially fatal consequences. Thus the group finds themselves having to working together on a dual-tiered mission: not only to find out who is responsible for their predicament and why, but also to engage in a desperate and terrifying battle for survival….

Now this movie chooses to acquire a thing or 2 from a couple of Escape Room borrows from two film franchises that may have had potential at the onset, but slowly went downhill with each installment that went by: Saw and Resident Evil. In the case of Saw, which also incidentally is this film’s main influence due to the nature of the puzzles themselves and right down to a line of dialogue thats sole purpose for being there seems to be because the film’s writer took the phrase “Live or die, make your choice” and tried to find a synonym that would be close enough to imply this could become a franchise, but not close enough that Lionsgate would sue them over. Heck there’s also room to have further backstory given and also bring new people into the fray. As for the contributions given to this movie by Resident Evil we are treated to a nefarious cover-up behind the scenes that is showcased at specific instances throughout the movie as we also get a final pulling back of the curtain that manages to confirm that another round of puzzle-oriented mayhem is in the cards. Heck we are even given a female protagonist in this movie that could prove to be the next Alice should this become a legitimate franchise.

Yet even with everything that this film chooses to…borrow from other movies there are still some intriguing concepts contained herein that honestly could have been given more substance as we ventured through the twisted labyrinth of mayhem that we as an audience are exposed to in this film. Plus, for a film that tries to be a PG-13 version of Saw, this film really does seem like it is having an absolute blast with the puzzle completing concept instead of just giving the audience a group of unwitting players to watch getting bumped off. Thus if as an audience member like yourself movie goer really wants to narrow down just what really truly makes this film work as well as it does, there are a pair of specific ingredients. These are adrenaline as well as a cast that actually plays this material straight instead of campy. Indeed if this film did not come equipped with those ingredients in play, then I honestly feel that the finished film would have sunk like a stone in water or moved at a snail’s pace thus making every single flaw in the narrative that much more visible.

Indeed I would even go so far as to say that had this group that is portrayed by both familiar character actors as well as new faces to the acting circuit, been more structured and created as well-rounded from a narrative standpoint individuals, what they find themselves having to go through in this film and the various set-ups within might have had more of an audience investment. As it is however, this movie suffers significantly from the aspect that it chooses to focus way more time and energy on the various puzzles rather than the group of unwilling players thus making it extremely difficult to really care about what happens to any of them. Yet even though this film is firmly invested in its desires to make the cast solve this string of deadly puzzles, the film still finds room to falter courtesy of the first couple not only proving to be a wee bit dull, but also in the setting up a possible curve in the proceedings that they never capitalize on. With that being said however, once the 3rd test is brought into the mix, the film manages to finally find to its footing and stay that way for the rest of the movie. Yet even though from that point on it isn’t difficult to have a tiny bit of fun with the rest of the film, I still feel that Escape Room manages to tragically come up short when it comes to the movies you must see department

All in all, with how the movie turns out, Escape Room is a fun little film that is all set to be eaten through and through by its PG-13 intended target movie going group as well as for anyone wanting to see proof that not everything released in the doldrum month of January is complete garbage. In fact, this could be quite the beginning to a film franchise that could honestly get better the longer it goes on. Yet while I don’t see how making another installment in this burgeoning franchise could be a bad thing, I must also confess that if this had turned out to be a one and done then I don’t think a lot of people would have been too disappointed. On a scale of 1-5 I give Escape Room a 2.5 out of 5.