I have, of course, heard tons about this movie, and the story is well known as well, even having an episode of MythBusters attached to it, but I simply have not had an opportunity to watch it.
The story is fairly simple, and stunningly bare on the surface.
Clint Eastwood is transferred into the rock, and meets the warden, who tells him that no one gets out of here. Along the way, he meets up with a few people, including two brothers that are pretty good at escaping prisons, one guy that’s obsessed with his rat, Litmus and another that loves to paint.
The movie builds to the eventual escape into the Bay by the three men (spoiler alert) and a final tag saying that the authorities claim they drown with no proof.
That’s it. That’s the movie.
Drive Home safe.
The parts of the movie that make this such a classic really isn’t even Clint Eastwood. Its how the other characters revolve around him. He has seemingly random conversations, that may or may not mean anything, but you never really know if they matter for about 5 minutes. Racism is touched on with English, calling each other ‘boy” but its not a major theme, they hit it and move on, and become not quite Red and Andy, but we don’t need Red and Andy here. Eastwood is lazer-focused on escape and everything revolves around it. Everything is a tool to be used, from nail clippers to clippings at the barber shop. Alcatraz is a character as well, When we get there it is an impregnable fortress, and the Warden is steadfast in the fact it is going to remain escape-proof from even the smartest inmates, by the end, we discover that the time on the Rock has made the building brittle, and when you watch the end, it comes fairly quickly and easily, at least until you hit the water.
Litmus might be my favorite character, he seems to have made peace with being a prisoner, dug out his own little world, and got a certain group of people he can talk to. Litmus latches onto Eastwood, and helps him gain certain items along his quest, but knows he is not going with him. I was concerned the Warden was going to kill the mouse, but apparently the mouse got away. The Warden and Guards are come and go, none the of the guards really matter, and the Warden is shoe-horned into being more and more of an asshole as the film moves on. I can understand him being how he is in the beginning, but when he discovers the painting, to seeing the flowers and so forth, he just becomes an active enemy, instead of just a function of the prison. On second viewing, I’m not sure why the movie decided to do this. They put up Wolf as an early antagonist, but Clint beats him fairly easily, and even at the end, he is far more bark than bite, and then the Warden singles him out, for not a particularly good reason either. Clint Eastwood is marked as highly intelligent, but can hardly be the only smart guy in the entire prison.
The movie does imply that the trio escapes, leaving a flower on one of the rocks, even as the Warden crushes it and throws it into the Bay.
I’ll give this one a solid 7. I found it to be an enjoyable watch, I’m not sure there is a good rewatchability factor, and the fact that getting to the escape is all the fun. The escape part itself tends to drag in parts. Upon a rewatch, I really didn’t care about the escape itself. I almost wanted to end the movie as soon as the escape is begun then wake me when the Warden shows up. I will say Shawshank is a better prison film, and Cool Hand Luke blows this one out of the water, but have a sit, grab some popcorn and enjoy this one.
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If I’m bored clicking around the channels and I find this I probably watch this movie. It’s not great but there is just something about most Eastwood movies that make them watchable and easy to while away an hour or two with some snacks…preferably popcorn and root beer or ice tea