The film, produced for €3m by the UK’s Picture Farm and Ireland’s Parallel Film Productions, will be distributed in Italy by Lucky Red (under the title Prison Escape, perhaps to capture audiences of Prison Break).
“The prison genre is still very popular, and has produced many audience hits,” said Wyatt, who explained that for The Escapist he was inspired less by American blockbusters than the laconic films of his favourite director, Jean-Pierre Melville (the subject of another retrospective at Turin this year). To the point where main character convict Frank Perry, who is serving a life sentence and with other inmates plans a prison break, “speaks less and acts a lot, just like Alain Delon of The Godson”.
The standards were high – “I was also influenced by the 19th century story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce,” said Wyatt – behind this entertaining film that makes the very most of its cast (especially an impressive Brian Cox, alongside Joseph Fiennes, Liam Cunningham and many others), music (from a Leonard Cohen ballad to the title track by Coldplay) and locations.
Above all, the prison, “photographed in a non-naturalistic way, with a torrid, almost tropical atmosphere. A claustrophobic and even science fiction place, governed by laws and hierarchies that exist only in that parallel universe,” said the director.
And the underground passages of the escape, which “were impossible to reconstruct in a studio because of the limited budget, so I spent a long time searching for real ones, and got permission to film a part of London that’s never seen,” added Wyatt (who wrote the script with Daniel Hardy), who will soon get to work on the film adaptation of the Sebastian Faulks novel Birdsong, set during WWI.
Gabriele Barcaro Cineuropa.org