VOD film review: Escape Room 2: Tournament of Champions
James R | On 30, Oct 2021
Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Thomas Cocquerell, Holland Roden, Carlito Olivero
Two years on from 2019’s unlikely horror success of Escape Room, director Adam Robitel and his team are back for another round of puzzle-box nastiness. While a series of thrillers based around escape rooms sounds like the unlikely basis of a franchise, this sequel is as fun as the first outing – and suggests that this could end up being cinema’s new Saw, for better and for worse.
As the name suggests, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions takes the logical step of bringing together former Escape Room “winners” (read: survivors) to compete together in a new chamber of conundrums. Top of the bill are, of course, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), who made it to the end credits of the 2019 original – just as the duo were planning to track down Minos, the company behind their traumatic ordeal, and expose the whole sorry business.
The other characters who end up joining them (Indya Moore’s Brianna, Thomas Cocquerel’s Nathan, Holland Roden’s Rachel and Carlito Olivero’s Theo) don’t have the same attempt at depth as the first film, but what they do share is a survivor’s resilience and perhaps regret, after what they’ve all individually been through. That means that, while the puzzles on offer become that bit more elaborate, the characters move more quickly than the original movie’s players, and there’s a satisfaction in seeing such competent teamwork and deduction on-screen – and outrage and shock when they do fail to beat the system, as it’s never due to a contrived side character’s poor decision-making.
The production design again keeps things varied, from a laser-protected bank vault that toys with heist conventions to a quicksand-filled beach and, best of all, an electrically charged train carriage. A rainy sequence towards the end starts to get a bit too dark, but the sequel sticks to its 15-friendly guns, which keeps the franchise feeling refreshingly un-Saw-like – the stakes are high, but it’s not cruel for the sake of it.
The pacing, again, is the real secret weapon, with the film clocking in at 90 minutes without breaking a sweat. In the extended cut, which is superior to the theatrical cut, an entirely different ending introduces two key players (played by Isabelle Fuhrman and James Frain) that explain some of the game-making that goes on behind the scenes – and, if you allow a couple of implausible plot jumps, sets up the potential for more sequels to come. Whether we actually need more sequels or not is another matter entirely, but if Escape Room can keep its wits about it, a third and final ride wouldn’t be an unpleasant proposition.