Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Rating 15
Length 1h 52
Release 24.1.1980
Director Don Siegal
About Frank, a convict who is sent to Alcatraz, the most feared prison in the world, decides to escape from captivity despite the challenges that come his way.

The Good

  • It’s a mellow film, light on dialogue but full of presence. Everyone involved keeps you engaged and hooked. It proves that a film doesn’t have to be all loud noises and action to invest you in the narrative.
  • Controversial opinion, but I preferred this to Shawshank Redemption. Why, I cannot explain. Perhaps its the lack of hype surrounding this, or the addition of Clint Eastwood. It may even be its setting at Alcatraz or the much shorter running time, but I certainly find this a much better offering to the genre.
  • Baby faced-ish Fred Ward! I cannot say this enough; Fred Ward improves any film just by being in it.

The Bad

  • I found the mental health and wellbeing of the inmates a harrowing and difficult watch. Obviously, I know that these were men who are being punished for crimes and perhaps not deserving of the empathy I feel watching. However, the theme of isolation and the lack of behaviour correction through constructive activities does manifest in destructive and harmful actions by some.
  • I hate that the narrative has everyone telling Morris how hard it is to escape. For a film that is economic of its dialogue, it goes to the opposite extreme to tell the audience this is the man who is going to escape.
    The first time Morris meets the Warden, the sole purpose of that meeting is for the Warden to tell Morris its almost impossible to escape. In fact, its almost half way through the movie before Morris verbalises any wish of wanting to escape.

The Ugly

  • It’s a rather quiet film. While that is a bonus, it does require attention. This is not a film you can watch if you’re distracted with your phone or if you’re remotely tired. Between the beautiful sunshine coming through the window and my vitamin D deficiency, I did find myself drifting off and I had to pick the film back up when I woke up.

Final Thoughts

Better than Shawshank and based on an escape still shrouded in mystery, I’ll most certainly return to this again. Between this and Dirty Harry, this is an actor/director combination that really works.

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