A decade after the black plague tore through their country a poor family sets out on a journey toward a new home. Unfortunately they never make it to civilization as, on a remote mountain pass, they are ambushed by a band of raiders who kill all but the young daughter, Signe (Andreasen), who they take with them back to their mountain camp. At the gang’s makeshift camp Signe meets a fellow kidnap victim, Frigg (Olin) and learns that a terrible fate (being gang-raped) awaits her. The two girls become allies and escape the bandit’s camp, but the raider’s leader, the deadly Dagmar (Berdal) is determined to find them and complete her new ‘family’.
Escape comes as a breath of fresh air after seeing so many ‘so so’ American and Eastern action films of late. Director Roar Uthaug (what a great name!) follows up his previous success with Cold Prey and delivers another tense and exciting ride for fans of gritty action/thrillers. Set in a fearful Norway, during the 14th Century, Escape marries elements of films such as The Hunger Games, Exit Speed, Mother’s Day and Mad Max and serves them up medieval style.
As the two young girls run for their lives and fight for their survival the viewer is pulled closer and closer to the edge of their seats, hoping against all odds that the two likeable leads can overcome their hardships and win out in the end. And this, being a gritty, rain-soaked Norwegian film, one can never be sure if a happy ending is on the cards.
The film is nicely shot throughout, the cinemaphotographer really capturing the wildness of the harsh but beautiful terrain the girls have to plunge through. The music really complements the visuals and the acting is uniformly excellent throughout.
In fact Escape is a difficult film to fault, as it appears to accomplish everything it seems to set out to achieve. The ‘hero’ characters are likeable and you really root for them, the ‘bad’ guys are suitably nasty, but also fallible, and the scenery is stunning so even when the action flags a little you’ve still got sumptuous visuals to enjoy.
I guess if I had one criticism to level at the film it would be that I didn’t totally buy Dagmar’s henchmen’s motivation for supporting her quest for the girls. Dagmar’s own obsessions are explained satisfactorily and I could see her partner going along for the ride, but I’m not so sure about the others. I guess they hang out with her because she’s a strong leader who helps them steal from the society that’s banished them, and one of the thug’s motivations seems to be because he wants to have his wicked way with Signe, but the others I’m still not convinced by… Also the film’s not particularly original, story-wise, but one could say that about so many films.
There are too many excellent scenes to mention here, but standouts include the tense standoff at a log bridge, over a gaping chasm, the siege of a hunter’s cabin and the finale where our main heroine takes on the psychotic Dagmar and her remaining cronies with just her wits and agility to help her.
Sadly, I suspect that a subtitled film like this, regardless of how many good reviews it garners, will either end up sinking into DVD purgatory or be remade by some smart film producer state-side with disappointing anglophied results.
I’d definitely recommend Escape, which is basically a good old-fashioned chase movie, but instead of featuring cars it’s all on foot. And let’s face it, who can resist a movie where the costume designer is called Baron Von Bulldog!
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Escape has just been released on DVD by Entertainment One and the disc features a few additional extras including: trailers for new releases (Ender’s Game, Red 2, Hammer of the Gods and Snitch); an all too brief visual effects featurette, which demonstrates which shots are visual effects and how they were done; deleted scenes, some of which should have stayed in the film, and a bloopers reel, which is fairly amusing. All I can say it must have been a cold and damp shoot judging by the general level of ‘wetness’ and blueness of skin throughout the film!