Movie Review: “Escape Room”
A group of people with a variety of lifestyles receive mysterious invitations to an escape room. It is supposedly the most immersive escape room ever invented and is so challenging that no one has ever completed it successfully. What is the incentive for completing this room? A large cash prize will be awarded to anyone who is able to get out in time.
While waiting to be taken into the escape room, the group discovers that the lobby they have been waiting in is actually the first segment of the escape room. They quickly start looking for clues, but the room turns into an oven and begins heating up. At this point, the group discovers that the escape room has been designed to put their lives at risk. The only way out of the escape room is to complete it, but each segment is more dangerous than the last. There is no way of knowing who arranged this whole thing, or why they were chosen to participate, but being unable to solve the puzzles may just cost them their lives.
The Pros & Cons
The Rooms (+8pts)
The Beginning (-4pts)
Taylor Russell (+4pts)
Unique Players (+4pts)
The End (-4pts)
Pro: The Rooms (+8pts)
I was nervous, before seeing this movie, that each room would feel too far-fetched. I was also concerned that the group would be racing a timer in every room, but that was (fortunately) not the case. I have done my share of escape rooms, and one thing I enjoyed was that the puzzles in the movie were very similar to the kinds of puzzles one would do in an actual escape room. The only difference with the movie is that the stakes are much more severe than just failing to get out within the given time period. I thought the rooms were really well done, and I liked how each room had a different way of putting the group in jeopardy.
One room heated up to the point where it could have cooked the group like a Thanksgiving turkey. Another room was so cold that the group could have died from hypothermia. These two rooms were shown in the trailer, and I will not give away how the other rooms put the group in danger, but know that each room was unique enough to keep the movie feeling fresh and intense. Each room lasted just long enough so that the audience could enjoy it, but not so long that any room felt old. With every new room, came a new (very different) threat. Additionally, the group only ever had to race a clock once. In the rest of the rooms, they were (instead) racing the room’s ability to kill them. This, mixed with a variety of puzzles and scenery, made it so that the movie was always intense, and never stale.
Con: The Beginning (-4pts)
I never understand the logic behind doing this, but the filmmakers of this movie did something that is done in too many movies. They started the movie by showing a scene from the end of the movie, then the movie jumped back in time to the beginning of the story. I do not get the logic behind doing this at all. The filmmakers clearly thought the movie started slow, so threw this intense scene at the beginning to try and hook the audience right away.
There was an unfortunate side effect of doing this. The scene being shown at the beginning gives a huge spoiler as to which characters are present by the end of the story. Will the audience know what exactly happened to each of the other characters? No, but most audience members (like myself) will be able to take a wild guess, which made it hard for me to care about some of those missing characters.
Pro: Taylor Russell (+4pts)
Taylor Russel plays Zoey, one of the main characters in the movie, and I thought the young actress did a really good job. The character is smart, kind, and severely introverted. Zoey is a genius, but has a tough time getting out of her comfort zone, which is something that was easy to relate to. I had never seen this young actress before, but she did a good job of playing to all of the characters’ strengths, as well as her weaknesses. Zoey was an easy character to root for, and Taylor Russell was largely responsible for making that happen. This was not a performance that will blow anyone’s mind, but she did exactly what she needed to and Escape Room was certainly a stronger movie for having Taylor Russell in the lead role.
Con: PTSD (-3pts)
The filmmakers decided to make it so that every single one of these characters have experienced some sort of extremely traumatic event. Each character is still dealing with their trauma, so suffers from some level of Post Traumatic Stess Disorder. We see every character (except one) explaining their trauma or getting a flashback to show it. With some characters, we get multiple flashbacks. If the filmmakers had done this with just one or two of the characters, that would have been fine, but doing it for all of them disrupted the flow of the movie.
It just felt like overkill, and distracted from the premise that was working so well. The filmmakers tried to make the movie more dramatic than it needed to be, and the trauma that every character had, felt like a distraction from what the movie should have been. I just wanted to see some over-the-top escape rooms. I did not want to see a character freaking out because the heat reminded her of a previous life event (this was just one example). It just felt dumb and unnecessary.
Pro: Unique Players (+4pts)
While I was not a fan of all of the flashbacks and explanations for each of the characters’ traumas, I did like that each character had a different lifestyle from the rest. One was obsessed with escape rooms, one was a very smart science student, one was in the military, one was a trucker, one was a businessman, and one was a young guy who works in a shop. Each character was unique from the rest, which had two major benefits. First, the group had a nice variety that was fun to watch as they interacted with one another. Second, the diverse cast provided at least one character for most audiences to be able to relate with. The character development was not perfect, but I enjoyed the group dynamic. Each character brought something different to the table (some more so than others) and I enjoyed this variety of personalities.
Con: The End (-4pts)
This movie was a prime example of filmmakers who had a strong premise, but did not know where to take the end of the story. I do not want to spoil anything, but the ending of the movie turned into this whole other thing that I felt like had been done before. It came across as a cheap ending and it came across as unoriginal. I do not want to say what other movies I felt like this was similar to because I do not want to give anything away, but it definitely felt like lazy writing.
The ending went in a completely random direction, which made it feel like the writers did not know how to end the movie and also wanted to setup a potential movie franchise. The way they did this was to create this whole unnecessary thing (again, I do not want to give anything away) that made the whole escape room premise go from being a fun gimmick into being a potential movie franchise with a ridiculous connective plot. It was a pretty disappointing direction for the filmmakers to take this story. They made the classic mistake of focusing too much on setting up a franchise rather than just focusing on making the first movie good.
Grade: B- (80pts)
I had high hopes for this movie. I thought it could end up being pretty similar to movies from the Saw franchise, but with the twist of being set in an escape room format. For the most part, that is exactly what this movie was, and I enjoyed a lot of things about it, but the movie was not without its issues. The movie started at the end of the story, then jumped back in time which ended up doing nothing but spoil what characters make it to the end. Additionally, the filmmakers delivered ridiculous answers to who is behind the sinister rooms and why they are doing what they are doing. The filmmakers gave a ridiculous ending that stank of lazy writing, with the sole purpose of trying to set up a film franchise.
The writing was weak and gave me the impression that the filmmakers were more concerned with making a film franchise than they were with making this movie good. What did I like about the movie? I liked the diverse group of characters and watching them interact with one another. I also liked the young actress (Taylor Russell) who played the main character, Zoey, as a relatable genius who was really easy to root for. Finally, I liked the escape room itself. The room is split into different segments with each being just as unique and exciting as the rest. The movie had a lot of problems, but the different segments of the escape room always made the movie feel both fresh and intense.