Film: “Escape Room”; Director: Adam Robitel; Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Jay Ellis; Rating: ***
Adam Robitel’s “Escape Room” is a taut thriller that surely keeps you enthralled. It is an escape room drama, where friends or strangers are locked into a room and forced to search for clues in enough time, to escape.
Here, the narrative begins on an exciting note of fast edits, where a seemingly desperate man crash lands through the ceiling into a room searching for an exit. He limps all around frantically looking out for clues to the complex lock that holds him prisoner. Soon the room turns into a compressing maze and he is shown getting crushed between the walls of the room.
The above mentioned dynamic scene sets the ball rolling for the plot to unfold. The narrative shifts a couple of days earlier where six total strangers are coerced to participate in this “savage game.”
The enticement arrives in an inexplicable mystery box that promises a prize money of $10,000.
The six are: Zoey (Taylor Russell), a brilliant but shy science student; Ben (Logan Miller), a high school drop-out who is keen to rise the ranks as a customer service executive; Jayson (Jay Ellis) a selfish stock trader; Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), an ex-army veteran who returned from Iraq; the middle aged Mike (Tyler Labine), a truck driver who is excited to do something other than driving; and the escape room-obsessed Danish Khan aka Danny (Nik Dodani).
The plot wastes no time in setting-up who these characters are or what is their motive. And once they gather into the first room, they unwittingly realise that they are locked and that their wits are being tested in the endless maze containing deadly traps. “It’s like a real-life video games,” exclaims Danny, who confidently poses as Mr. Know-it-all.
And over the period, as they escape from one room to another, the puzzles and circumstances surface as fresh and intriguing to simultaneously hold your interest.
Unknowing they are actually participating in the game of death, while the events turn scary, Danny chides: “It is part of the immersive experience.”
While the first half is exhilarating, the beginning of the second half gets cliched and predictable.
But nevertheless, the curiosity of who among the six would survive, keeps you hooked to the screen. It is like being subjected to watch a “gladiator in an arena”.
But unlike the gladiators in the colosseum, the battle or struggle for survival lacks the punch. Sans any gore, the narrative is soft on the emotional front, despite the early promise of torture-porn.
The tale is less sadistic than relentless, pausing only once to catch its breath and let our heroes spill enough of their back-stories to make sense of things.
The performances, production values, camera-work and editing, are of reputable quality and overall, while the final beats of the film have an awfully familiar flavour, the film is notches better than the formulaic films of this genre.
At the end it promises a sequel, which I am looking forward to.