A group of inmates attempt a daring escape from the notorious Alcatraz prison island, from where no-one had managed to escape before. Based on a true story.
Escape from Alcatraz marks the last collaboration from Don Siegal and Clint Eastwood who worked together many times, including the Dirty Harry series. Eastwood considers Siegal as his mentor who taught him the art of directing. He even dedicated his Unforgiven Oscar winner to Siegal and has said in interviews that he taught him everything he now knows and uses when he directs. This is a terrific film as it mixes a lot of genres very well. At its heart it's a character study of three inmates trying to figure out how to escape because they just can't take it anymore. And it's also a Thriller, especially the last 40 minutes as the audience is completely with the inmates step by step as they Escape.
We know what's going to happen as the ending of the film is already in the title of the movie. They will Escape of Alcatraz. Why we watch is because we want to know how they did it. If you watch this film and then watch Apollo 13, you see that Ron Howard really took a lot of the pacing and plot points from Alcatraz. Apollo 13 is another film where you already know the ending and you have to engage the audience by showing them how they did it. Not an easy movie to make.
You can also look at the cop shows on TV now that really uses the methods in this film. But the difference with Alcatraz is that it carefully positions you into the characters psyche. The first 10 minutes show the Eastwood character going to the island and ending up behind bars isolated with the rest of the world. From the boat ride to the island to the door slamming shut, there is absolutely no dialogue said at all. Something that just can't happen these days in this fast paced, quit shot MTV world.
Knowing that it's based on a true story makes you appreciate them even more. They accomplished the impossible because they banded together, figured each other's strengths and weaknesses and formed a bond to accomplish a goal. They are not friends at all or don't really have much loyalty for each other, but are formed to get a job done. And this job is to get out of the trap they are in. It shows you what great things people can do if they face it like it's a do or die situation. They all know that they can't make it and they have to escape or else they are doomed.
You get to see how other inmates function this incarcerated world. One inmates befriends a mouse as his best friend, others box or workout their bodies and some take to reading books. They all escape the boredom and trap by finding themselves to attach themselves to. Eastwood's character's makeup is not like that and he realizes that he's in trouble if he doesn't figure out a way to Escape.
Clint Eastwood is one of the few actors of this 100 year film medium to portray so much by doing so little. The way he portrays strength, confidence and vulnerability in a span of 10 seconds is truly remarkable. You just want to follow his journey. And him playing a criminal in this film is something that an actor like him can accomplish as the audience is going to like him no matter what. And this film didn't showcase your typical cliches, like having a corrupt Warden for example to counter the main character so you like him. The antagonist is the island itself.
A great film to watch. And a very under rated film.