Title: Escape Plan
Director: Mikael Hafstrom (’1408,’ ‘The Rite‘)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Faran Tahir (‘Elysium’) and 50 Cent
People at times can be so determined to succeed in their jobs, and prove that no one can stop them from accomplishing whatever they put their minds too, that they’re willing to put their own lives in danger to do so. Such is the case with the main characters in director Mikael Hafstrom’s new action mystery thriller, ‘Escape Plan,’ that they don’t mind risking themselves in order to survive on their own terms. Action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite once again for the film, striving to prove they can still handle all the stunts that once made their movies so popular. Unfortunately, the extended use of stunts, and the dismal amount of time the script spent on their characters’ motives, unfortunately takes away their strong sense of urgency, and believability, of being able to find a plausible way to save themselves.
‘Escape Plan’ follows Ray Breslin (Stallone), a security expert who makes his living finding ways to escape from maximum security prisons. Craving a higher dose of adrenaline, and motivated by the $5 million paycheck, he takes the advice of his co-worker, Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), and accepts a job offered by the CIA. Ray goes undercover into an international prison system, where the inmates aren’t offered arrest warrants or trials.
But he plan doesn’t go according to plan, and Ray is ordered to remain incarcerated by the sadistic warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who’s unaware of his plan. Ray’s co-workers, including Lester, Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (50 Cent), ultimately lose contact with him after he’s imprisoned. So the security expert is forced to form unlikely alliances with his fellow inmates, including Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and Javed (Faran Tahir), in an effort to save his life and prove he was set up.
While the thriller sets out to prove ‘The Expendables’ co-stars still have the agility to lead a suspenseful action film, Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, the screenwriters of ‘Escape Plan,’ unfortunately failed to create diverse, developed characters for the two leads. While the two scribes hint that Ray lost his wife and child, the story does little to explain how or why Ray became involved in breaching prison security systems, and if his family was the motivating factor in his career choice. He also unquestionably knows his way around computers, construction, astrology and a variety of other useful areas that help him figure out ways to single-handily cripple an entire secure prison system without any true explanation or reasoning. The unexplained knowledge takes the excitement and anticipation of out whether or not he’ll survive without incident or harm.
The character development Chapman and Keller created for Emil was also frustrating and unsatisfying, as the two scribes only touched upon the fact that the prisoner was withholding important information from the warden. It’s revealed that Emil has been sitting in the prison for six months before Ray showed up, as Hobbes is waiting for him to finally emotionally break down and reveal what he knows. But despite the teasing of the ever-growing and powerful tension between Emil and Hobbes, the lack of explanation of Emil’s actions that led to his incarceration also takes away some of the building hostility between the prisoner and warden. More in-depth insight into the reasoning behind Emil so stubbornly stonewalled Hobbes’ inquires could have left a more satisfying explanation of why he so readily joined forces with Ray.
Despite the disappointing lack of character development of the two prisoners and their personal and professional relationships, as well as the warden’s involvement with Ray’s mission of breaching the prison’s security system, Caviezel gave an intriguing and captivating performance. The actor masterfully played Hobbes as mercilessly manipulating anyone necessary, from his crew to the prisoners, to more beneficently and intimidatingly, run his prison. From conivingly pitting Ray against Emil to obtain the information on the whereabouts of a man he’s looking for, and only Emil knowing his whereabouts, to unsincerly promising religious freedom to Javed to gain an advantage over stopping Ray’s escape plan, Caviezel ruthlessly portrayed the warden as being corrupt and void of morals.
The depraved behavior Caviezel effortlessly poured into Hobbes was strikingly captured in the stunning production design created by Bary Chusid. The sets created for ‘Escape Plan,’ notably the elaborate labyrinth of small glass cells in Hobbes’ state-of-the-art prison system, perfectly reflect how seriously the warden took keeping the world’s most dangerous inmates in his prison. Stacking the cells on top of each other, combined with the long, narrow hallways for the prisoners to eat in, and the small, mind-altering isolation units, offers the perfect claustrophobic atmosphere. But when Ray ultimately discovers where the prison is located, Chusid’s intriguing design makes perfect sense for the set-up of all jails for repeat and violent offenders.
‘Escape Plan’ unfortunately fails to differentiate itself from the numerous other action thrillers Stallone and Schwarzenegger have starred in throughout their esteemed careers. Not only do Chapman and Keller fail to fully explain how and why Ray and Emil become involved in being sent to Hobbes’ prison, their screenplay offered no satisfying explanation of why they developed a friendship. Despite the thinly developed relationship between the two prisoners, and explanation of Hobbes’ corrupt nature in keeping Ray and Emil in jail, Caviezel gave an intimidating, intriguing performance as the warden. Combined with the intriguing, diverse production design of the prison, the action mystery thriller thrived on Caviezel’s performance and ease in his surroundings, ‘Escape Plan’ did offer some intriguing insight and motives into the action genre.
Written by: Karen Benardello