Escape Plan (UK - BD RB)
Chris Gould takes a look at this action icon team-up movie on Blu-ray Disc...
Working as the escapee guinea pig in high security prisons, Ray Breslin (Stallone) is the world's foremost authority on structural security.
When Breslin is enlisted by the CIA to test a top secret high-risk prison, he soon realises that the plan has gone awry when he is drugged and incarcerated in a master prison not only stocked up with the world’s most dangerous men, but also designed to be escape proof thanks to his years of research.
With no hope of escape, Breslin finds himself at the mercy of the other inmates, brutal staff and a corrupt prison warden (Caviezel) driven to bury him forever. Breslin’s only seeming chance is to hook up with the dangerous and highly unpredictable political detainee Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) in order to put what could be his final Escape Plan into action. (Taken from the PR.)
Entertainment One's Blu-ray release of Escape Plan arrives with a 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) widescreen transfer that does a reasonable job of showcasing the original cinematography. As I understand it, the film was shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras, which makes for a very clean and relatively detailed image. It's not as razor-sharp as some digital shows, but that would appear to be a stylistic choice more than anything else. The colour palette is generally quite varied until Ray finds himself incarcerated in the Tomb, at which point it shifts towards cooler tones, although the grading is never pushed too far into the realms of the unreal. Contrast is strong throughout, with bright whites that err just on the right side of clipping, and deep blacks that don't sacrifice shadow detail.
Unfortunately the presentation is marred by one glaring issue: posterisation. Frequent banding is visible throughout, particularly during the opening twenty minutes or so, during which it is genuinely distracting. I'm not one of those people who claim to have perfect recall of films I watch theatrically, but I don't remember the presence of this particular artefact when I saw it on the big screen. Comparisons with captures taken from the US release also suggest that it's more prevalent on the UK disc, which is understandable given that the main movie encode is only 22GB (that's pretty small for a near-two hour film). In my book it's a serious enough issue to warrant relegating this to 'good. not great' territory, but the film looks perfectly acceptable for most of the runtime and there are a a number of scenes that look just as good as anything the format has to offer.
Thankfully the audio track is free from defects, at least as far as my ears can tell. In fact, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 effort is actually pretty damn good. Immersion is extremely impressive, be it the subtle ambiance of the prison locales, or the all-out riots that break out towards the end of the film. The track does a great job of conveying the Tomb's immense scale by placing a variety of things around the sound-stage, such as conversations between inmates, PA announcements and cell doors slamming shut. Dialogue is always crystal clear (well, as crystal clear and Arnie and Sly get), and overall fidelity is wonderful. There's also some quite meaty bass to accompany the more action-packed sequences, although there are fewer of these than you might expect. All of this is ably supported by an appropriately tense score that is as well-balanced in the mix as the rest of the elements. To be honest there's really not a lot to fault here, and while it's not as impressive as something like Gravity it's a very effective track that significantly enhances the on-screen action.
Entertainment One has included a reasonable collection of bonus material to support the main feature. From what I can tell, everything found on the US disc has been included here, which is always cause for celebration.
- Audio Commentary with Director Mikael Håfström & Writer Miles Chapman: One of the more interesting things about this commentary is that the participants recorded their parts in separate locations, but the track is surprisingly cohesive if a little on the dry and technical side of things.
- Executing the Plan: A fairly run-of-the-mill making of featurette that includes all of the usual material, such as behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and clips from the film.
- Maximum Security: The Real Life Tomb: This featurette examines a number of real-life prisons, both modern and antiquated, and makes for an interesting addition to the disc.
- Clash of the Titans: This featurette profiles the action heavyweights that are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
- Deleted Scenes: A short collection of scenes, some of which might have benefited the film by their inclusion, some of which would not.
Escape Plan isn't quite a return to the glory days of either of its musclebound stars, but it's an enjoyable enough thriller that engenders just enough nostalgia to make it worth the watch. Those who go into it expecting something akin to Predator or Rambo are going to be disappointed, because there's precious little action in the almost two-hour run-time, but I for one found this refreshing. Both of these guys are well into their sixties, so it's not realistic to expect them to play the same sort of characters as they did in their prime. Never fear though, there's still enough grunting, monosyllabic delivery and hammy acting to remind you why we all loved them in the eighties and nineties. As a massive Arnie fan I took particular delight in his scene-stealing performances and groan-inducing on-liners.
As for the Blu-ray, well it's a bit of a mixed bag. The video transfer is the most disappointing aspect, due to the inexcusably sloppy compression. I can't remember the last time I saw a disc with so much banding, which is a shame because many other scenes look absolutely fantastic. Thankfully the audio is universally great and the extras, while initially appearing lightweight, are actually quite interesting. On balance I think it's still a worthwhile purchase for long-time fans of the aging stars, but if you're looking ta new generation to your idols I'd start with their back-catalogues...
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 17th March 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mikael Håfström
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Ryan
Genre: Action and Thriller
Length: 116 minutes
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