We have all had escapes. Close, narrow, thrilling and dumb-luck escapes. The best part of the escape isn’t in the freedom or the prep-work needed for it. It’s everything that you put in to it. Remember the days when we have looked out of our classrooms and just wished that we could drop a smoke grenade and make a break for freedom? Or think about all the boring presentations you have sat through, all those long slides, the professor droning on and on. And in that moment, you could see your chance for a clean getaway. Our lives have moments like these which just come flying fast and hard. We can dodge some, we can jump around some. But there those times we get caught.
As they say, Art imitates Life, every escape we have ever dreamed of has been on the silver screen. Cinema is an escape in itself. We get transported to the farthest places and we can be anyone we want, do anything, and live the life we wished the world could give us. I have had the feeling from time to time that we are all just captives in this world. Without films we wouldn’t dare dream out loud of a better place for ourselves.
And now, let’s get a little meta-physical. Over the years, we have had lot of escape movies and prison dramas. The idea of a person’s freedom being curtailed and rights being squashed has captivated us. Each and every escape tale is either a real one or has been dreamed up in the mind of an author. Here is a list of a few movies which have thrilled us and made us dream of our own escapes.
1. The Great Escape: The title says it all, doesn’t it? Actually it just about covers the idea. It was made in 1963 and set against the backdrop of World War II. The story is about a group of Allied POWs (Prisoners of War) who stage one of the biggest-ever break-outs from a German-held prison camp. The star-studded cast consisted of the biggest names of Hollywood with the likes of Steve McQueen, James Garner, Sir Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum and many more… This isn’t a break-out of just one or two people, but hundreds. The logistics are huge. You get to see the ingenuity and the indomitable spirit of characters who actually existed.
2. Shawshank Redemption: Made in 1994 by Frank Darabont. The screenplay for this masterpiece of cinema was also written by him. It is actually based on a short story by Stephen King. The story goes that the rights to this story were sold for one dollar. As legends go, that’s not a bad one… The best part of the movie is that you never know when or even if the escape will take place, forget how. The world of a prison is shown with some realism for that time period. The loneliness and hopelessness of men convicted to life terms. Think about it, you are taken into that place on your two feet and you will carried out in a box. The last 30 mins of this film has enough turns and twists for you to whoop out loud. And it all started with a poster on a wall.
3. Escape from Alcatraz: Another story based on reality. Alcatraz Island was a maximum security prison which operated for about 30 years. In those 30 years it was claimed that no one escaped. This movie is a kind of Hollywoodization (new word, me thinks, trying it out) of one of the many breakout attempts. Clint Eastwood stars as the mean-tough-speaks inwhispers-guy, whose plan it is to escape. The plan was a daring and ingenious one. It involved spoons, papier mâché, raincoats and lots of time. The convicts who made a break for it were never seen again in real-life. Some speculate that they drowned in the escape. Or did they?
4. Escape from New York/ Escape from L.A.: Let’s take a break from reality for now. I have put two movies together in this entry. You might be wondering why. Mainly it has to do with Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell. This was before his monosyllabic part in the movie, Soldier. The reason "Escape from New York" works is because it takes place in a dystopian version of our future. The whole island of Manhattan has been turned into a huge mega-max slam (future sci-fi lingo for maximum security prison). The President of the United States has crash-landed on the island and it’s up to Snake to get him out. Snake, a rebel with an perennial scowl normally associated with either some form of constipation or thorn in posterior, makes his way through NY shooting things to save the President.
Since the movie did so well, they decided to make a sequel "Escape from LA". This time on the West Coast. In this version, Snake has to save the president’s daughter and the world as well. While surfing a tsunami and also hang-gliding. I know, even I shook my head when I saw it. But hey, it’s Hollywood. We come for the title, stay for the popcorn. These aren’t escape movies, yeah, but they are flights of fancy and in that sense, there is a sense of escapism.
Every movie is an escape in the end. We all can see ourselves fighting against the odds. There are many more movies where prisons and prisoners have played significant parts. The ones above are just the movies which I remember, for now.