Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

One of the great things about Letterboxd is realising films that you thought you've seen aren't marked as logged, so you put them in the backlog to check them out when you get a chance just in case. And that's what happened here. The first few mins seemed familiar but nothing else was. So pretty sure I've not seen it before. Maybe it's the Los Angeles one I was confusing it with. This film is great. It's a great premise, and the way the plot unfolds is how I like plots to unfold. Thoughtfully and always with increasing intrigue. There's a smashing bunch of characters, and it never becomes bogged down with unnecessary action or melodrama. The music is a little out of place, maybe dates it more than the other things, but I don't mind it too much. I thought the atmosphere was a big highlight of the film. Although it looked budget conscious it did more than enough to set the scene. The picture quality was a bit grungy but again that just added to the atmosphere. I don't have much in the way of complaints here. Just glad I didn't miss out on seeing it.


Spoiler notes
This was the film I'd intended to watch after The Fog if my Sky box hadn't been knocked out of commission.

The Good:
- the whole premise, while far fetched, especially in the timescales presented (by 1988 and 1997) is fantastic. I mean generally any futuristic prison island seems a good idea for a film but to make it Manhattan is sublime. (Interesting that the thought of futuristic prisons doesn't fit with my usual prison aversion).
- the lack of people on the streets seems surprising at first but only later we see loads of people at other locations. It helps to build the tension.
- the character Snake Plissken. He's not the testosterone fuelled hard man you might expect from someone named Snake with a cobra tattoo and an eye patch. He's actually pretty reserved and full of common sense every time he's considering how to survive a situation. And during the film I was thinking he's more of a Plissken than a Snake (not in an insulting way if it's possible for that to be misconstrued). And then at the end of the film when talking to the chief he's like don't call me Snake. The name's Plissken. And I was like I Knew It! Haha.
- "I thought you were dead!". One of the best lines ever. Which is just as well as every character says it to him when they meet. It's this mythos of the character that is never fully established that makes it so brilliant.
- all the characters, being about as madcap as the ones in Mad Max 2. Makes me wonder if John Carpenter could have one great film left in him. His greatest yet.

The Bad:
- Carpenter and his team didn't manage to turn the action into ACTION(!). It's more like watching demo footage for the action before it's made to look cinematic. The boxing ring in particular was very slow-mo and ineffectual by today's standards, or by even 80s standards. Thankfully most of the action was the thoughtful type so it's not a big issue.

The Ending:
- so, there's a few interesting things going on in the plot here, the President (Pleasance) must be rescued in time to deliver his speech to other delegates at a world conference inc Russia and China. The importance of his attendance seemed to imply direct consequences for the rest of the human race. But not just the President, he also had to play a tape, which itself sounded like it might be the key to a formula to protect the population from some pandemic or something. The Brain (HD Stanton) and The Fog lady are both killed rescuing him. The Duke (Isaac Hayes) is also killed off. Plissken just about survives down to the last 2 secs before the capsules in his neck exploded. And the President and his men seem less than grateful. It's like the world on the outside has gone to shit. And we realise now that Plissken (the once venerated war hero) who has been incarcerated for some crime against the government is probably some kind of freedom fighter. Anyway, the ending, turns out he switcheroo's the cassettes. And destroys the mandatory one. Sticking it to the man for sure. But what are the real consequences of this!? We never know! Could be a World War! Maybe it is a plot point revealed in the Los Angeles one, a film I don't recall being that enamoured with. But maybe need to check it out again. I have a feeling the President is in that one too hence the familiarity of the opening scenes.

The start where the terrorist (or now that I've got to the end, possibly the freedom fighter) is deliberately flying the plane into the NY skyscraper. Uhh. That's a bit touchy. Almost idea giving. But the goal was to kill someone important onboard so different objectives. Also, considering the plane went into the building (at least according to the tracking readout cause they obviously didn't have the budget to show us that), it was surprisingly intact on the ground later on.

Connections:
- it felt a bit like an inspiration for Schwarzenegger's The Running Man and Total Recall.
- the poster art isn't even in the film but it looks like it influenced Cloverfield. Btw look at the poster close-up. That cheesy grin on Kurt Russell's face. That's nothing like Plissken. I love that cheesy fakeness in the poster, it actually adds to the film's mythos. This is the sort of thing Tarantino does too.

Damn, I just realised Escape from L.A. isn't logged either! Definitely have to catch it now, but I have a strong feeling I must have seen it.

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