Escape Plan

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There are only a few occasions which none of the action movie fans would wish to miss, and one of them is when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger come together in a movie, not as part of an over-packed action movie like The Expendables, but in a flick which is carried on the shoulders by these two actors together. Now that the Rocky and Demolition Man meets The Terminator and Predator again, there is that expectation which brings so many people into the theatres even in the presence of such a visual magnificence like Gravity which hasn’t yet managed to disappear even a little. This is more or less like Freddy vs Jason in disguise, as Terminator with Rambo rather than against; it is that nostalgia which this movie brings to the viewers, even as these two actors might be judged too old by a few people we are familiar with. Yes, Escape Plan is not The Expendables, that is for sure; and it is that one thing which makes this better, even as a few of the action movie fans won’t like this one that much for the same reason.

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a former lawyer who owns a security firm which tests maximum security prisons for their quality and reliability and is helped by Abigail Ross (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). He spends his life getting himself into prisons and escaping from them, mentioning that his total escape count is fourteen. He is shown to observe the routine and habits of prison guards, create distractions, and also get help from the outside to get himself out of captivity. One day, they are offered a big deal by CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) to test a top secret prison used to keep the worst of all criminals of the world. Breslin is reluctant at first, but agrees to the deal and gets himself captured in New Orleans under the name of a terrorist named Portos, but as his tracking micro chip is removed and he is drugged before he is taken into a prison in an unknown location, the plans go out of range and the objective seems nearly impossible.

Breslin wakes up in one of the many glass cells where the prisoners were kept, with no sight of the outside world to know the location. Their world is limited to what can be seen in that area. They even have bar codes attached to their clothes to automatically make sure about their presence at the places where they are supposed to be during the time. There are masked guards all around making sure that nobody gets to know who is working on which day, and to add to that, they rarely talks or shows any remarkable characteristic for them to be remembered. After befriending another inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), he tries getting into two fights with him, the second involving another prisoner, and the latter attempt, he gets out of his cell and reaches the outside, but finds out that he can’t just run away from the prison, and it is not that simple. So they team up with another inmate Javed (Faran Tahir), and under constant guard and strict watch, the question remains if they can make it out of there.

[Spoiler alert for this paragraph] The best moments of the movie include when Breslin makes out of the prison and finds out that he is standing on an oil tanker, in the middle of nowhere, and is forced to go back to his cell the same way he came out. The moment when Rottmayer’s real identity is revealed, is another good twist. One of the other moments have to include that moment when Breslin wakes up to find the kind of twisted maze that the prison is. The escape sequence and the shooting on the deck shows that Arnold Schwarzenegger still manages to make a powerful impact with whatever action sequence he is performing. Now that was the moment which received the most claps in the theatre, and I won’t wonder why it was that sequence which managed them. Well, both of them have a lot of life in them, and even as Stallone is undoubtedly the hero, there is no credit taken away from Schwarzenegger, as right from the moment he lands in prison, the team work begins, and they share the action.

Sylvester Stallone keeps coming back again and again with his days of glory, and here he is as good as he has been. There is nothing lost from his performance, even at this age. But the man who stole the applause was once again Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been loved so much in this part of the world even by those generations who had known only a little about him, thanks to The Terminator, Predator, Commando, Conan the Barbarian, Total Recall, Collateral Damage, The 6th Day, The Running Man, End of Days, Conan the Destroyer, True Lies, Eraser and so many others which still bring a case of nostalgia to the minds of a few, and for others too, they are gems. I can’t really say that Rocky and Rambo had that much of an effect at this part of the world, and Demolition Man as well as Judge Dredd came to the picture pretty late, along with The Specialist. Even as I have admired Arnold Schwarzenegger throughout most of my life, I have to admit that Sylvester Stallone is slowly taking over that admiration with the way in which he has been handling his performance.

Yes, the claps for Schwarzenegger was much awaited, and Stallone deserves his own, even as there was nothing much there from the audience, which might have been surprising for a few. He was incredibly solid throughout the movie, and the way in which he depicted Breslin was more than just good. We remember the former’s earlier comeback as the lone hero in The Last Stand, and people had loved that. Here we see both in the way we always liked them, as action stars, supposed to be old, but still punching much younger people on the nose and shooting them right on the forehead. We might not have dreamed about such moments in the 1990s, but here is the treat for you, as they does what they always did the best. Here are two actors, belonging to the same genre, having acted in somewhat similar kind of movies, with names quite difficult to pronounce for an average man or woman from this part of the world. Well, you can think about many people when they talk about action, including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Will Smith, but these two are still our best.

So as Sylvester Stallone would say in Judge Dredd, what would the judgement be? Well, it is already almost houseful at this part of the world, and shall run for another week or two for sure, with Insidious: Chapter 2 ready for its release here. This should make way only for Thor: The Dark World only, and none of the regional releases nor the big national releases should threaten its position. With its impressive trailer and the posters, along with the two men who make this movie of clever, but slightly ineffective plot, creates a lot for the audience who should feel that these two are enough to go for this movie. There is no bigger name than Arnold Schwarzenegger here, even after so many years; and after watching this movie, Sylvester Stallone shall be my favourite actor of that age group – and I shall never miss any of his movies, as I expect entertainment to be guaranteed without the lack of too much logic and without the presence of much nonsense. Well done, dear veterans; you haven’t let us down.

Release date: 18th October 2013
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Curtis Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Faran Tahir, Caitriona Balfe, Matt Gerald

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Elysium

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So here comes the movie which I have been waiting for, since the day it released in the United States, and then again starting another big wait from the day in released in the United Kingdom. This was also the movie I was looking forward to watch in 2013, after Pacific Rim. Other than the presence of Matt Damon, the other interesting thing about this movie was what was told in the brief summary associated with it, and surely that name. The name was quite familiar in relation to some of the stories related to Greek mythology which I had come across during my childhood. Yes, that varied vision of paradise had left a mark, and here is that name revisited through this movie, not as what comes after afterlife, but all the same which are enjoyed during this life. The movie is set in 2154, when a group of wealthy people left the Earth after coming to know that their kind had destroyed the planet with greed and lavishness. With all the resources that remained on Earth, they created Elysium, a luxurious space station just outside the planet’s orbit to live a life free of disease and pollution. The lived a life of comfort assisted by robots and superior medical care, while the people of Earth were made to live on a devastated land, policed by robots sent from Elysium and deprived of their rights.

Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is a former criminal on parole working in Armadyne, the same company which built Elysium. But he is exposed to lethal radiation during an accident and is left with just five days to live. All is not well in Elysium either, as Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a mercenary on her payroll, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to shoot down civilian shuttles full of illegal immigrants trying to make it to the city of their dreams. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) condemns her action on the basis of human rights which leads to a cold war between the two. As Jessica looks forward to having more power and keeping it, makes a deal with Armadyne’s CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) to create a program that can shut down, reboot and override Elysium’s central computer in order to make her the new President. Carlyle creates the program in his office on Earth, encrypts it and uploads it to his brain so that he could take it back to Elysium for secret deployment. With the help of his friend Julio (Diego Luna), Max seeks help from a skilled smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura) to go to Elysium and get cured, to which Spider asks for Max to steal some information from Carlyle. He agrees, and supported by an enforced exoskeleton, he goes on a mission which could change the life of a lot of people.

Coming from Neill Blomkamp who gave us District 9, this movie is somewhat a let-down, and it struggles to keep its standard as high as that wonderful flick. Still, it is certain that the base of both of these movies are the same, and both deals with somewhat the same issue, which is the difference between the oppressor and the oppressed, the privileged and the under-privileged, the powerful and the subaltern. The 2009 movie had aliens coming to Earth and living on the planet only to become second-rate citizens, while our 2013 movie has humans going to a space station and making the rest of their kind second-rate citizens or rather the lesser species – almost the same thing. The protagonist is from the subaltern group this time though. Both are about the horrible divide between people, sometimes about the rich and the poor, and otherwise racial or ethnic in nature. The evil of the multinational corporations as well as the government funded policing of groups which are different in some way or the other, also exists. Elysium makes a good attempt to carry on that idea of divide which formed the skeleton of District 9, and adds more elements of science fiction and powers it using the expensive fuel of post-apocalyptic fiction which sells, and in the process it hurts the inner core.

This is undoubtedly Matt Damon’s movie, and one has to doubt it would have worked this well without him. In the dystopic future where Earth has become nothing more than a big slum of devastated towers and a collection of small ghettos. He plays a former criminal who wishes to go to Elysium so that he could save his own life, but later he transforms into something more, as the saviour of not only his friend’s daughter, but also of millions who can’t afford the riches of the new first world. He is a confused revolutionary and a saviour who doesn’t decide his change, but rather it happens to him. He becomes what the nun who raised him had told him when he was a child – for he became someone special, an act which is supported by flashbacks which works, but not the way the audience might have wanted. This might be his best performance since the first three movies in the Bourne series. The character should have done better with a little more attention to his thoughts and change rather than just making him change as if it was there in him since childhood. Surely, he could have had more to work with, and this movie’s overuse of brain has seriously worked against the character of Max, which could have been drawn from another level.

I am rather surprised that Jodie Foster is not the main villain in the movie, as I thought this was going to be her wonderful performance in the form of another great villain, from what it seemed in the trailer. We wanted that villain, and in the beginning stages of the movie, we also get the feeling that it is how it is going to be. It is a shame that she doesn’t impress at all this time. But there would be Sharlto Copley rather than Jodie in a performance which is quite strange even though good. But this is one character who shouldn’t have had this much screen presence even as the man seems to live in the character and keep it a level above most of the movie. In a movie which is something more than a science fiction, this is not the main villain we want, for this is a more suitable secondary villain character. The need for a more powerful in intellect and yet normal in muscular strength villain was there, and this need is not fulfilled. Its good to see Alice Braga after her last action movie Predators, to which I hope there will be a sequel. She plays the childhood friend of Max, and the one who has a deep impact on him. Despite the smaller screen presence, she makes a very good impact. William Fichtner could have made a great major villain, but his character dies too early for us to get a glimpse of a possible evil. He still symbolizes the corporate evil, the power of the multi-national entities which became inter-planetary entities.

There is action and there is the hidden theme of the lack of humanity and the division between humans. But the action is mostly of inferior quality and the social message is not that powerful as one would expect to. I would consider Oblivion a far better flick intellectually, and District 9 a far more effective movie with its social message. As far as entertainment is considered this won’t be a Star Trek: Into Darkness nor a Prometheus visually. Elysium is another one of those escapist fantasies for sure, but its bridge towards the social message is not that much a perfectly crafted link. Another factor should be that of blood and gore which comes in abundance here, and gets itself an adult certificate with the same, but still doesn’t manage to do it well enough. One has to applaud the visuals though, as the world of Elysium as well as that of Earth are well-detailed, and the robots as well as the flying machines are well-designed and works very fine. The action sequences are lesser, but still not too exaggerated. The movie’s confusion about where it belongs is clearly reflected in all those things which happen throughout its own little world. One has to applaud the idea, but still be confused about its effect on oneself, and how to think about this movie. The emotion couldn’t be felt deep enough, and my friend had recommended a seventy three for this, but I thought I should add a little more to the rating.

While the movie drags a bit, and keeps itself in a loop in which it gently repeats itself, there is still enough in its soul to keep us interested and make a good influence. The only movie of this year to which the action of this movie can be compared is World War Z; yes not to Oblivion which had another post-apocalyptic world with a supposed colony of humans in another place as Earth has gone down due to many forces of destruction (a theory which is proved wrong in a twist of fate which is found later). This drags like World War Z and gets the loop working as the same movie. This could have done with a better route in the script, and Jodie Foster as a different, but still the major villain. It is sad that all the potential had this movie only up-to this level – no, I am still glad to have watched this movie, but this should have been a great work on the screen, but it has missed that opportunity, and that is kind of saddening. May be they could have stuck to one thing in this movie rather than making it a masala social message, or may be there could have been a better balance; I wouldn’t be sure, but let me tell you that I was hoping to come out ready to give an eighty to eighty nine for this movie out of hundred, and seventy seven is a disappoint if we look at it that way.

Release date: 27th September 2013 (India); 21st August 2013 (UK)
Running time: 109 minutes
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Alice Braga, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Valentina Giros, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.