Movie Monday – Escape Plan, Prisoners, The After

Escape Plan was not that great. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. Stallone and Schwarzenegger (and Jim Caviezel) are interesting enough in their own right to keep you watching but the story itself was riddled with ideas and concepts that just didn’t mesh well. At times it was difficult to follow details. If I had been in the theater, I would have been frustrated. We paused the movie more than once to clarify details with each other or to rewind and watch something a second time. I’ve seen plenty of movies with complex ideas that move quickly but you’re able to still track what’s happening – think Oceans 11 and The Bourne Identity. There was just something lacking in the execution of Escape Plan that kept it from coming together well. I wouldn’t recommend not watching it. Just don’t expect to be wowed by anything.

Prisoners was interesting, good in some respects, odd in others. We appreciated that it kept us guessing. But, what stays with me is that I can’t help but wonder what kind of statement it’s trying to make. The father in the film, who won’t give up on the search for his daughter who disappears with a friend on Thanksgiving, and who takes his methods to the extreme, is characterized as a prepper. Is the film suggesting that all preppers are extremists? Or is it just a coincidence? As prepping, or preparing for potential hazards like extreme weather events, economic collapse, and end-of-the-world scenarios, becomes more mainstream, does it just make sense to include this in our media because it makes the characters more real? Or is it a quiet statement against those people by presenting them in a negative light, suggesting they are overly aggressive, willing to go to extremes that others wouldn’t? Aside from that, the character of the investigator was odd, although I think it was intentional. Jake Gyllenhaal did a fantastic job with such an odd character. But despite his performance, his character felt half-developed. There was so much about the character that wasn’t told: why all the strange tattoos? why was he eating Thanksgiving dinner alone in a diner looking positively creepy? what’s his story??! It just felt like a piece of the puzzle left out. Overall, Prisoners is suspenseful and interesting. If you like thrillers and drama then you might put this one on your list to watch.

The After is a new Amazon Prime TV Pilot, a concept similar to Netflix Originals. We liked it! Apparently it’s not set that there will be more and given the lackluster comments about the pilot that I’ve seen online, it’s possible there won’t be any more. I admit, it wasn’t a slam-dunk, solid first episode, but it had enough to hold our interest and make us want to see more. Eight strangers are thrown together by circumstance when a world-ending event occurs. They must rely on each other while they try to find out what has happened and how to go forward. The episode ends with a wild cliff-hanger. I would really like to see what comes next. I hope they make more.

“Heh heh. You hit like a vegetarian!”
~ Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), Escape Plan, 2013

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