The Escapist
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In a place where the inmates are always one breath away from explosion, lifer Frank Perry (Brian Cox) appears just the opposite. Countless years of prison life have reduced him to a walking version of the crumbling block walls surrounding him: dead eyes, slow moving, rarely speaking, too old now to be a threat to the rest of the population. Only one thing matters to him: his daughter, whose picture he always keeps before him.

Heís written his wife many times to learn about the girlís wellbeing, but heís never received a response. Then, one day, a letter comes. His daughter is sick. Now Frank has a purpose: he must break out, go to her, and save her at any cost.

So Frank hatches a plot, recruiting a few inmates with specific skills, and little to lose, to join him (Liam Cunningham, Joseph Fiennes, and Seu George). Itís not primarily the guards they have to foil. This prison is controlled by the ruthless inmate Rizza (Damian Lewis) and his brutal, predatory, addict brother, Tony (Steven MacIntosh). Moreover, Frankís new, boyishly-attractive young roommate, Lacey (Dominic Cooper), who has become the center of Tonyís attention, threatens to expose their meticulous plans.

But just before the planned prison break, a startling turn of events forces Frank to rethink his options, leading to an astonishing ending.

The Escapist is a raw, nail-biting, definition-of-gritty thriller. For modern audiences who appreciate The Hunger Gamesís display of tributes being treated like meat for the entertainment of others, this is much the same, as inmates crowd along the balconies any time thereís a brawl or a shanking, taking perverse pleasure that itís not them.

The tale is told using rapid flashbacks, from the present-moment, break-neck escape sequences, to the slower-moving back story of the planning stages. At times, the thick brogues--cockney, Irish and Scottish--can be a bit hard to understand, but youíll keep up, because the context usually makes the points clear.

The Escapist, ultimately, isnít just about a prison break. Itís about a manóor maybe any of usówho escapes from life by building prisons to torture himself, perhaps far more than the real world heís running from. Itís also about how we can make a way outóno matter how long itís been, how great the losses, or how empty and jaded we may feel.

Thatís the character that Brian Cox plays so well: a man who comes to understand the meaning of freedom. In The Escapist, weíre not told any details about Frankís crime; we only know what it cost him and others close to himóand how he makes peace with it.

You can watch this film for the thriller that it is, and it wonít disappointóitís terrific. Or you can watch it as a metaphor and take what you can from it. Itís one of my all-time favorites for both reasons, and it might very well become one of yours, too.

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