Starring: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom
Director: Donald Siegel
Running Time: 112 mins
Escape From Alcatraz is an American film about the true story of a tough convict sent to Alcatraz, allegedly the most secure prison in the world. However, along with some fellow daring inmates, he plans to do what has never been done before and escape the facility.
If there’s one word I would use to describe this film, it’s eerie. On the whole, the film is a fascinating and enthralling watch throughout, but what makes it so memorable is how filled with tension and eeriness it is. Clint Eastwood’s steely performance works together with Don Siegel’s unnerving directing style to make Alcatraz a very intimidating location, only heightening the stakes and making for an even more exciting watch.
Let’s start with Clint Eastwood’s performance. At times harking back to his silent Man With No Name days, at others pulling off the charismatic and intimidating Dirty Harry vibe brilliantly, he’s absolutely brilliant from start to finish. Whilst he has a series of supporting players alongside, Eastwood stamps his authority on the film the moment he appears on screen, and from then on, you get a truly fascinating protagonist.
Escape From Alcatraz never shows this man as an anti-hero, rather a pure hero, which was brilliant to see. There’s no mention of his past crimes, and his actions within the prison make him a lead character that you really want to see succeed, even if he is going against the law, and that really helps to increase the tension and drama as you fear so strongly that he’s going to get caught.
Working in tandem with Eastwood’s performance is director Don Siegel, who does an excellent job at giving Alcatraz a powerfully intimidating and unnerving atmosphere, something that becomes ever more incremental to the success of the film as the stakes begin to increase.
Despite knowing how strong Eastwood’s character is, the prison’s eeriness always keeps us on edge, and makes for one of the most nerve-wracking and intense final acts you’ve ever seen, no matter whether you know the outcome of the true story or not.
Finally, the film does an excellent job at pulling off this true story. It’s exciting and tense throughout, and the personalities given to the main characters in the prison help to make it feel all the more real. If you liked The Shawshank Redemption, there are so many parallels with Escape From Alcatraz that will have you hooked in almost the same way, yet with the added knowledge that this is an amazing true story.
Overall, I loved Escape From Alcatraz. It’s an exciting and enthralling escape story from start to finish, but its overpowering eerie atmosphere is what makes it most memorable, thanks to expert directing and acting across the board, and that’s why it gets an 8.1 from me.