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A Player Affinity Guide to Movie Escapes and Getaways

Escaping isn’t just for jailbirds anymore, folks. In this hectic modern world in which we exist, if you want freedom you’ll have to be devious, athletic, strong of mind, have access to money, accomplices and resources. And if you’re Ryan Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest caper drama Drive, you’ll have to be a demon behind the wheel. In honor of that potential Oscar contender, Player Affinity will take a peak behind all the tools, mindsets and poise needed to get away from whomever or whatever it is you pissed off.

Lie, Lie, Lie

Don’t cry baby Jesus, it was all for the greater good. Keeping your proverbial poker face in the heat of battle is essential to a speedy getaway; even when put on the spot. Who is Keyser Soze? He could be the near-mythical murderer, hiding away planning his next score, or (The Usual Suspects spoilers ahead) he could be a stuttering cripple fabricating his life-story based on the room around him. That iconic storyline from The Usual Suspects is the epitome of how a lie, not the truth, can let you free in the most literal of senses. On the slightly more jovial side of things, Ferris Bueller proved that a hair of good luck, some uncanny vocal impersonations from a friend, clever contraptions in your bedroom and a fib so gargantuan it couldn’t possible be false, can save you a day behind the desk. An escape doesn’t always have to be from a threat, sometimes it can just be from boredom itself — or yourself.

How do you escape from your very own being? Therapy and meditation never help and a shiny new sports car just masks the pain. To truly escape from that most unstoppable of foes, you have to transport yourself into a fantasy world of your own, or, as Guy Pearce’s Leonard showed us in Memento, hunt for a killer that doesn't exist simply to escape from his your own guilt. What about The Matrix, or this year’s not so hard-hitting Sucker Punch? your own mind is the key to a blissful retreat. Those whitest of lies do not have to be utilized in creating an illusion just for yourself, as countless heist films have shown us including — but certainly limited to — The Thomas Crowne Affair, whereby deceit is the golden ticket to escaping with the loot.


Run Like a *#%&!!

Sprinting like a bat out of hell may seem like the most literal translation of “escaping,” but human nature has to prevail and that means fight or flight and if you have a cheetah barrelling down on you, I pity the S.O.B. who chooses the former. Even if you plan everything to a T, holdem’ cool like Gus Hanson and pay off all the right people, one tiny slip-up and you better be ready to pump those quads. Our favorite archaeologist Indiana Jones knows exactly from which direction his rear should be viewed, bolting like a crazed manic from a thundering boulder and spear-wielding natives in but the first 15 minutes of his tale in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Zombie movies easily fall into this group as well; does anybody recall the opening sequence in 28 Weeks Later, where after a farmhouse siege our eventual lone survivor barrels across the English countryside to an escape boat being relentlessly pursued by victims of the rage virus? I do.

I’ve already mentioned The Matrix, and while that provides a proverbial escape, when the agents come a knockin’ let your shoes do the talkin’ – unless your name is Neo. Human and computerized foe is one thing, but what about a threat from the Jurassic. Our unwilling bunch of tourist tasties had to put the pedal to the metal in the aptly named Jurassic Park to outrun a particularly ornery giant lizard — Darwin’s theory at work, folks. Automobiles are a fantastic tool for escapees, just ask the crew from the “Fast and Furious” films. These gearheads pull off all types of shenanigans, simply to burn rubber and ride off into the horizon.  


Be Cool

Let’s all be like a couple of Fonzies here, everybody, because no matter if you are making an escape by air or have yourself a bazooka, if you let your nerves get the better of you, your pants will be soiled before you take a single step. Granted “cool” may be a bit of a passé term, but the word covers so many realms of a steely demeanor. Sgt. Sefton, played by William Holden in Stalag 17, was nearly mobbed before he led a prison camp escape and suspected of being the mole leaking information to the Nazi’s simply because of his rational stance on the events unfolding around him. Interrogated, tortured and essentially banished by his fellow soldiers, he nevertheless kept his cool, put forth rational thoughts and eventually prevailed both in the eyes of his comrades and in his literal escape.

Fast forward to a distant dystopian future in Equilibrium where Christian Bale’s John Preston is strapped to a lie detector to see if he has indeed ceased his dose of the mandatory emotion-depressing drug Prozium. Though wavering initially, he stone-colds the machine and goes on to slash, hack and shoot his way to salvation.

Summer 2011 brought about a literal definition of being cool as Captain America, trapped on bomber plane headed for New York City, opts instead to crash land in the Arctic, entombing himself in a temporary casket of ice. Now that is one chill dude.


Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty ... or Wet … Or Chopped Off

In space, nobody can hear you get covered in alien slime. In Alien and its sequel, Ellen Ripley shredded her way through her acid-blooded foe in a relentless and manic fashion. Trapped away from planet Earth, her only hope of survival (and eventual escape) was to (wo)man up and fight back. Running is a good and necessary tactic, but it does little good if you let for enemy get the best of you. Bruce Campbell found that his own hand to be a tad irksome in The Evil Dead and lopped that bad boy off for good. In both TV’s Prison Break and The Walking Dead, escapee felon known as T-Bag and hillbilly Merle respectively founds themselves chained to an object at inopportune times. Solution? Lop it off, make your escape and pine for your missing digits after the threat has passed.

Mutilating yourself as a means to escape is one thing, but frankly disfiguring someone else is so much easier in the long run — in order to run. Hannibal Lecter skinned the face off of an unfortunate soul in The Silence of the Lambs, slung it across his own and was feverishly escorted from the crime scene, thought to be a critically wounded victim. Messy business it is submerging your visage in another man's epidermis, but when the alternative is a tiny plexiglas prison cell, the choice is not very hard at all. Last off, and speaking of alternatives, how about the choice between a bullet/capture or swan-dive/freedom? Richard Kimble in The Fugitive did just that to the bewilderment of U.S. Marshall Gerard and not only did he escape, but he also found legitimate freedom as well.


Creativity is Key

It’s art class versus gym class; the sprint versus the cunning mind. Creativity truly exists as a combination of all of the aforementioned elements, blending them together in perfect proportions to make your plot come to fruition. Frank Abignale Jr., the conman played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, could easily be viewed as just a phoney, but he also slipped through the cracks and sold outlandish tales on the spot without dripping a bead of sweat. In many ways “Catch Me” is a heist/prison film, so it should be of no surprise this is the category with your most traditional style of getaway: the jail break.

The Shawshank Redemption, Escape from Alcatraz, even Chicken Run (who says freedom has to be limited to non-claymation entities?) exhibit a cunning execution of timing, carefully placed red herrings, time-biding and smarts. These strongholds of the cinematic landscape (and obviously the real world as well) seemingly loom over our protagonists, crushing their spirits while simultaneously fuelling that desire for flight. Keys are secured, holes dug, guards bribed and vital objects smuggled, all over the course of a life sentence that can’t be shortened long enough. If you want an intangible, toss in the electric chair as motivation to amscray.  Even the rag tag crew in Oceans 11 went the extra mile in fully constructing the civilian equivalent of the jailhouse: the casino vault. Take what this from you will; a lot of Hollywood hullabaloo or some potential keys to sneaking past that awful something. Prevailing against all odds simply makes for a great story and when told with class and the proper combination of the above traits at least makes for a palatable diversion.


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