Movie Review: Escape Room (2019)

I’m glad I saw it. I wish it had ended sooner.

Director: Adam Robitel

Writers: Bragi Schut & Maria Melnik

Release Date: January 4, 2019

Run Time: 100 minutes

Rating: PG-13 for terror/perilous action, violence, some suggestive material and language

REA Reaction

Yes, it’s a PG-13 SAW/ Final Destination knock-off… but it wasn’t bad and it was far less torture-porn-y.

There were many points in Escape Room (2019) where I had solved the puzzle ahead of the characters. I mean that as a compliment. It’s difficult to write puzzles for on-screen actors to solve within a narrative and still present them in a solvable manner for the audience. Escape Room (2019) largely achieved this… although not entirely.

Two characters standing in a room that has turned into an oven.

The opening sequence was chaotic and messy, but it gave way to solid character development and some genuinely interesting escape room challenges, albeit murderous ones. There were good solves and amazing interactions… one of which had me thinking, “why haven’t I seen that done in real life?”

All of this was sustained by acting and dialog that were far better than I had hoped for.

Unfortunately, the final act took a nose dive into utter nonsense.

Finally, the escape room in-jokes were as good they were cringey. There was a character who was such an escape room enthusiast caricature that I watched him thinking, “well… this is how I sound to normal people.”

A card for Minos Escape Rooms.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some escape room experience

Why Watch?

  • You can actively solve many of the puzzles along with the characters
  • Solid character development
  • Really cool, over-the-top escape room-y moments
  • Escape room in-jokes

Story

Six strangers received mysterious puzzle boxes in the mail. Solving them led to the day, time, and location of an escape room game where the winners would receive $10,000… if they survived.

Gameplay

I won’t go so far as to call this movie a game, but it was possible to kind of play along. I solved some of the puzzles along with the characters.

7 hands holding a block of ice with a key in it.
Worst process puzzle ever.

Analysis

➖ The opening sequence was laughable and chaotic.

➕ The characters were interesting and generally likable.

One character excitedly speaking to the group.

➕ The escape room enthusiast character was really something. I found him equal parts amusing and cringey. His references to playing with crappy strangers, escape room company names, how escape games work, and “immersion” were painfully dead on.

➖ They made an odd decision to only establish 3 of the 6 characters at the beginning of the movie. This diminished 3 characters from the onset and telegraphed entirely too much about the film.

➕ I truly enjoyed being able to remain engaged and mentally follow most of the puzzles.

4 characters outside of a cabin in the middle of a snowy forest.

❓ Escape Room (2019) wasn’t gory or particularly gross. The death scenes weren’t graphic and generally ended quickly. Personally, I preferred this.

➕ Most of the rooms that the characters “played” in were imaginative and over the top, while still feeling more or less grounded in escape room tradition.

A bar room where everything is upside down.

➖ There came a point where everything started to feel rushed. They condensed interesting concepts to make room for the ending.

➖ The final act was nonsensical garbage. Escape Room (2019)’s sin was explaining too much. I don’t know if it was trying to be profound or establish a path to a sequel. Whatever the thought process, the conclusion was miserable.

➕ Murder notwithstanding, there were concepts in this film that I hope to see incorporated into real life escape rooms.

A character solving a puzzle box.

➖ It’s not the fault of anyone involved with this film, but there were a number of different moments that felt especially uncomfortable in light of the tragedy in Poland that occurred on the movie’s opening day. It was difficult to see a newspaper headline on screen that read “5 Dead in Fire,” and to see heat and fire traps, poison gas, and even the overall concept that these rooms might kill you, knowing what had just happened in real life.

Tips For Watching

  • Accept that this isn’t a masterpiece and embrace the fun.
  • Solve along with the movie when you can.
  • Consider leaving as soon as the game is officially over. What comes after doesn’t add any of value.

Book your viewing of Escape Room (2019), and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Escape Room (2019)

  1. Funny that I hear references to Saw and Final Destination. But I got much more of a Cube franchise vibe than either of those two films. I believe they were setting us up for a sequel. At only $9M, it’s a cheap film by today’s standards and doesn’t have to make that much to be a success. If it makes triple the budget, it’s a win. Thanks for a great review. I hope owners get a little bump in business from the film.

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