Rules aren’t just meant to be broken. Sometimes, they’re in need of being broken. In the Windy City, college student Zoey (Taylor Russell), successful broker Jason (Jay Ellis), retired military veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), coal miner Mike (Tyler Labine), minimum wage store worker Ben (Logan Miller), and Escape Room superfan Danny (Nik Dodani) are brought together to experience one of the best escape rooms in the world powered by a company known as MINOS. They’re all strangers to each other, yet share a life similarity that makes them perfect for this.
The game starts immediately during pleasantries, and after the harrowing completion of the first room, it’s obvious that this isn’t something for amusement’s sake. There’s a $10,000 reward for those who can make it out of this complex construction, where each successive room raises the difficulty higher. Is the apparatus simply more immersive? Or, are there no victors in this thing that’s actually a death wish?
This will not be the first nor will it be the last time a reader seeking out an opinion on Escape Room will see these following movies mentioned: Saw, Final Destination, Cube, and The Cabin in the Woods. To throw out some other ones, heavy elements of The Running Man, and The Belko Experiment, and smaller elements of The Condemned, The Purge, and Nerve come to mind, also. Hell, most of those are all kind of the same. All of this is to say that one shouldn’t look for Escape Room to be anything more than a notch-slightly-above-average genre flick not without entertaining highs and clunky lows, which sort of makes it a win.
One thing about Escape Room? Sure, its concept isn’t original, but it’s in possession of some innovative sequences and setups. Director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) is unequivocally the film’s strongest positive. You’d think that this type of feature, being released in “Dumpuary” and all, would be a little erratic and visually underwhelming. Yet, Robitel is pretty measured and shows a solid understanding of patience and using the camera to capture the essence and confinement—and in some cases, lack of it—of an escape room. A few standout scenes include an upside-down bar, and an LSD-like clip (totally not for those who are sensitive to light—the disclaimer warning the usher and the picture will give is legit) that simultaneously produces feelings of “WTF?” and “Wow, that was impressive.” The electronic score crafted by Brian Tyler and John Carey creates a sense of urgency throughout.
Escape Room is mildly suspenseful and does enough with a story penned by Bragit F. Schut to keep a viewer relatively engaged. These aren’t the most enjoyable characters to watch, and no one performance could qualify as anything more than mediocre, though Miller has a potential career roadmap ahead of him in playing eccentric individuals à la Dane DeHann. But, there’s an effort to give a touch of substance to almost all of them that reveals itself over the course of the run-time. The dialogue is wretched in points, peppered with lame jokes that kill the mood here and there.
On the flipside, one couldn’t accuse Escape Room for taking itself super seriously; as there seems to be a level of self-awareness that puts it firmly in the B/C-level arena. This self-awareness and comfort in being simplistic goes by the wayside in the final act in exchange for the prospect of the almighty dollar. That’s a clunky way to say the last ten-to-fifteen minutes are tacked-on exposition solely existing to possibly make a sequel.
“Well, this is gonna suck.” That’s a line a character utters early on, and it’s probably a thought many may have before viewing this movie. The ending is groan-inducing, but for the most part, Escape Room is pleasantly decent in delivering on its title. Historically, there have been substantially worse features to be locked in with per this time in the calendar year.
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