If you’ve ever done an escape room before, you know how fun and/or frustrating they can be. Yet when that 60 minutes is up, each and every player can leave and return to the safety of their own house. In ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, the sequel to the 2019 film, Escape Room, the option of safety and freedom is off the table as this game is one of life and death.
ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, directed by returning Escape Room director Adam Robitel, re-introduces audiences to the events that took place in the first film, and continues the story of the only survivors, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) as they try to put together the pieces of who is behind this deadly game. However, they quickly find themselves trapped in another series of escape rooms with six other people, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive…and discovering they’ve all played the game before. As a lover of escape rooms in general, this follow-up film hit all the notes I was looking for in this type of movie.
The film wastes no time in preparing the audience for what to expect. After the 2019 film left off with Zoey revealing there was one last clue located in New York, TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS starts off with her convincing Ben (who she saved in the previous film) to travel with her to New York to find out what the clue means. After arriving at a non-descript building they encounter a homeless man who steals a prized possession from Zoey. They chase after him in hopes of retrieving it, but instead find themselves on a subway. However, not all is as it seems, as they begin to realize that they have stepped into a new game. Along with four other people who also all survived their own escape game, they proceed to fight for their survival as the subway car turns into its own type of death trap. At this juncture, all six players come to realize that they were never meant to escape their game.
For consistency’s sake, I’m glad that both Taylor Russell (Zoey) and Logan Miller (Ben) returned to their respective roles instead of completely starting over with all new characters for the second film. In making this decision, it allows the viewers to have an even stronger connection to these individual characters. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Holland Roden (Rachel), Indya Moore (Brianna), Carlito Olivero (Theo), and Thomas Cocquerel (Nathan). As with any movie such as this, you are going to get an array of performances and, though some performances left a lot to be desired, there were others who shined bright, such as Indya Moore’s portrayal of Brianna. Additionally, the cast is filled with diverse and inclusive characters, which lends itself to a more realistic depiction. Even with some of the acting falling flat, the characters are engaging and viewers will find themselves rooting for each and every one of them.
The most impressive aspect of the film lands on the production design. Everything from the construction of the set to the design of the games is top-notch. Done by famed BAFTA-winning Production Designer Edward Thomas, the set design is nothing short of breathtaking. Whether it be the destruction of a hotel room or a trap that’s set up on a beach, the amount of detail and realism that went into these pieces was astonishing.
Additionally, one of the biggest challenges in executing a sequel such as this is making sure to keep the traps original, exciting, and deadly. In the case of ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS, Robitel definitely hit on those notes, making sure each and every game our players encountered was unlike anything the audience has seen in this type of film. Personally, I was in awe of a dream sequence that takes place in a hotel room as well as a terrifying rain sequence that will stay with you long after the concrete has dried.
For those hoping for some gnarly, gory kills such as what’s shown in similar films like Saw, TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS doesn’t reach that same level of gore. However, for a PG-13 rating, Robitel does get away with some rather delightfully vicious kills, which are enough to make you forget that there isn’t much gore to go along with it.
Overall, I really enjoyed how fun and enjoyable ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS was. It definitely has its flaws, mainly in regards to varying levels of performances from each of the actors which could be distracting at times. The story also follows a pattern of predictability, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. The film does feature some nice, unexpected surprises, which allowed the film to come full circle. TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS does leave on a bit of a cliffhanger (that just so happens to trigger one of my biggest fears). My hope is that this film will spawn enough attention so that we can get a third film in the future.
ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS arrives in theaters on Friday, July 16th.
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