Escape from Alcatraz (1979) – Review

Alcatraz, also known as the Rock, was labelled as one of the most secure prisons of its time. Located in the United States, it was firmly believed that nobody could ever escape from it, until three daring men, fronted by Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) make a potentially successful attempt at getting out of the most infamous prison in the world. This classic production was originally released in 1979 and many believe it still holds itself in high regard to this day.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Director: Don Siegel
Writers: J Campbell Bruce, Richard Tuggle
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Larry Hankin, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward

Based on the real-life prison escape of three Alcatraz inmates in June of 1962, Escape from Alcatraz provides us with a dramatisation of that very event. Rather interestingly, the real Alcatraz prison, which still stands in California, USA, was used to film the majority of the movie, thus providing a truly authentic backdrop and setting in the process.

One aspect of the movie that the filmmakers managed to highlight impressively was the everyday, repetitive life that each prisoner within Alcatraz, must have had to endure during their time incarcerated. The flick featured a number of long, slow and drawn-out scenes, which featured moments of anger, frustration and even emotional turmoil for a multitude of characters. This, coupled with the distinct lack of action throughout the almost two-hour runtime, helped translate a real sense of monotony and isolation onto the big screen.

With that being said, the slow nature of the film didn’t prevent a wealth of tension filled moments being injected, along with a fair few edge of your seat, suspenseful scenes too. From the first minute, until the very last, you found yourself invested in the tale of each of the prisoners, along with wanting to know more about their own individual backstory, something that sadly didn’t occur, however.

In terms of the cast, Clint Eastwood starred as Frank Morris, commanding the majority of the screentime, while Patrick McGoohan adopted the role as the fearful and stern prison warden, Arthur Dollison. Elsewhere, the support cast was rather large and diverse considering the nature of the flick, with Larry Hankin, Jack Thibeau and Fred Ward featuring prominently as Charley Butts, Clarence Anglin and John Anglin, the main figures behind the escape.

Overall, Escape from Alcatraz provides the viewer with a somewhat realistic portrayal of what prison life must have been like over sixty years ago and the picture seems to have aged reasonably well from an entertainment viewpoint, even if it could be argued that some snippets of the dialogue are slightly outdated. If, however, you’re able to bypass that minor gripe, and you’re sustainable to an old-school, prison-based drama, then Escape from Alcatraz should be watched – if it hasn’t already been.

“There’s always the possibility that some asshole will be offended. Isn’t there?”

Frank Morris – Escape from Alcatraz

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