“No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz — and no one ever will!”
Four prisoners (Clint Eastwood, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, and Larry Hankin) plot their escape from the island of Alcatraz.
As noted in Vincent Canby’s review for the New York Times, Don Siegel’s Escape From Alcatraz “is not a great film or an especially memorable one.” There’s little character development and even less background exposition — everything we see and hear is either meant to show us why Eastwood is so eager to get out of this notorious hell hole (who wouldn’t be?), or how he goes about doing so. Plus, since the movie is based on a real story, there aren’t many surprises: we already know that three of the four men will successfully escape, and that their bodies will never be found.
Although Escape From Alcatraz is guaranteed to appeal to hardcore prison-break film fans, I’ll admit I found it to be a disappointment. It features all the classic tropes we’re already so familiar with in prison movies — the sadistic warden; the beloved elderly prisoner with an innocuous hobby; the aggressive sexual predator — without providing any new insights. You’re better off watching a more recent classic on the same theme: Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- On-location footage in what is possibly the world’s most famous prison
Some genuinely tense moments — such as when a prison guard nearly learns the truth about Eastwood’s dummy-head
Yes, simply for its status as a seminal prison-break flick.