By Alex Goldberg PhD.
Escape Room is exactly what it says it is: a movie about escape rooms. There’s really not much more than that. It’s fun, sort of dumb, reminds me of Saw a bit, and makes for an hour and a half of people cleverly finding ways out of elaborate set pieces meant to kill them. You could probably do worse during January and February, when studios dump most of their weak-sauce films.
The film is about several seemingly random people who are sent boxes containing an invitation to the ultimate escape room. Once there, they must find clues within a certain time limit before their environment offs them. So, they go from room to room searching for clues, dangling from ledges, avoiding hypothermia, and finding key puzzle pieces that lets them get to the next room. There’s the awkward, shy college student, the cocky businessman, the down-on-his-luck guy who works packing boxes, a pretty, athletic woman, a random truck driver-looking guy, and a young guy who loves doing escape rooms (because of course he does).
All the characters play up to their stereotype throughout the movie, but not in any over-the-top or funny kind of way. The plot is thin…and I mean thinner than Tara Reid on drugs! (Hi-yoooo) It’s got some twists, but they’re not half as intricate as the escape rooms they designed for this thing. Overall, it’s really the most disappointing thing about the movie, because the escape rooms are fun enough, with plenty of suspense to keep you guessing when a character might get knocked off.
Of course, like a Rube Goldberg machine, things happen that, in turn, set off other events within the room that cause chaos and destruction, torturing our heroes as we cheer for them to make it out alive. Each room is well-designed, shuffling from one type of atmosphere (outdoors in the cold) right into another (a billiards bar). It’s just that the writers focused all their attention on the rooms themselves and forgot to add the same kind of dynamic to the story, from the initial character introductions and foreshadowing to the dull conclusion.
Look, you have two choices: either you want to see people escape from these rooms, risking life and limb, or you want to do an escape room yourself. Both are good options, and both will kill around two hours. Should you spend $20 and see Escape Room in theatres? Probably not. Is it worth renting when you have nothing else to watch? Yeah. Is it better for your brain to solve puzzles on your own instead? Of course! Just don’t expect too much out of either, because the prize at the end is rarely worth it—unless the escape room you finish gives you cash…cash or like LEGO sets or something, then it’s totally worth it.
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