Escape Room review Taylor Russell

Year: 2019
Director(s): Adam Robitel
Writer(s): Bragi F. Shut, Maria Melnik
Region of Origin: US
Rating: PG-13
Color, 100 mins

Synopsis: Six strangers find themselves in circumstances beyond their control, and must use their wits to survive. (Source)

Wow, I know we’re barely a week in, but I’m already betting on Escape Room as one of the year’s most satisfying horror films. Adam Robitel’s latest is a thrill-a-minute mystery wrapped within an inventive slasher. It never stops to look back or catch its breath, is filled with characters who aren’t just trying to stab each other in the back, and keeps surprising us all the way up to its wonderfully absurd end. Blending fascinating mythology with genuine character beats, this thing is a veritable funhouse of twists and turns. Imagine Cube meets Cabin in the Woods with a dash of Saw. Capitalizing on the rise of real life escape rooms, Robitel and writers Bragi F. Shut and Maria Melnik pick apart the genre with clockwork precision. I had a grin on my face the entire time, and when the film ended, it felt like I’d just ridden the best kind of rollercoaster ride. 

One day, 6 people receive a mysterious puzzle box which happens to hold an exclusive invitation. These seemingly random people have just been given the opportunity to take part in a mysterious escape room. There’s even a cash prize of $10,000 involved for solving the game’s riddles. This opportunity hits each recipient at a specific time in their lives, and they all accept. After arriving at the game’s nondescript location, these 6 strangers quickly find out that not all is as it seems. If they want to survive, they’ll need to work together and beat a sinister system at its own game. 

What makes the film so fun, is that it hurtles towards its unpredictable end with unstoppable force. Things get going very quickly, and once they do, they don’t stop. With each room that’s solved, answers are revealed and new questions are asked. Like a narrative puzzle box, the film and its characters’ surroundings are constantly shifting and transforming. Each new situation is more hair-raising than the last, and we can never guess what’s just around the corner. The film’s straight line simplicity turns out to be an elegant solution for the story’s twists and turns. We know that these people are going to get picked off one by one, but how it happens and why injects some creativity into the genre, exploring the machinations of a gleefully sinister game. What’s more, each death matters to the players who survive it, as does the idea of survival and what that even means. Though the entire thing is ultimately silly, it manages to wring some emotion amidst the carnage. Even further, the inevitable link that ties everyone together is ridiculously satisfying.

Escape Room review 2

Performances across the board are exactly what the film needs, with surprisingly likable characters who immerse us into the film’s stakes. If there’s a defacto lead, it’s Taylor Russell’s Zoey. As Zoey, Russell is a brainy, introverted college student forced out of her comfort zone. Russell has an innate, relatable charm, creating a heroine that we want to cheer for. Jay Ellis’ Jason is a cocky stock trader who we love to hate, but is a bit deeper than we’re used to. Ellis treads a fine line, playing someone who is hard to pin down in the best way. Logan Miller’s Ben is also a nice surprise. Ben is the one with something to prove, yet feels disconnected with those around him. Miller plays this tension with sincerity, playing an everyman who could be any of us. Tyler Labine and Nik Dodani round things out as the comic relief, while Deborah Ann Woll plays a shell-shocked vet who gets a few killer moments to shine. All in all, the cast’s diversity gives the film its character, adding humanity to the countless twists.

Escape Room isn’t going to keep us awake at night or even saying anything too deep, but it’s smart, stylish fun that’s bound to hold up with repeated viewings. Blending a high concept with an irresistible mystery, there’s a lot to keep us on our toes and a lot to love. The dozens of set pieces are memorable, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and in the end, there isn’t much that we can really complain about. This is a guaranteed good time at the movies. It’s light, breezy entertainment that goes all the way, and that’s an absolutely admirable feat for something so frivolous. 

SG