Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Adam Robitel
After venturing into New York to gather evidence on the Minos corporation, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) find themselves trapped in another series of deadly escape rooms with other past survivors.
As you think early on in Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions that you’re ahead of the characters, and might very well be for much of the film’s course, it’s soon revealed that, much like the characters in their New York subway carriage surroundings, you’ve been brought into something of a false sense of security. As the ‘game’ begins and the deadly consequences are once again settled in the tension manages to rise up as it seems that escape is almost impossible. The carriage, lit up only by raging lightning strikes of electricity that surge throughout it, has dislocated from the rest of the train, abandoned in what looks like an abandoned turning of the underground. The passengers, after a sinister announcement, realise what’s happening to them and desperately rush to both survive and escape the first of what turns out to be many rooms.
Each figure on board the carriage is a previous survivor of the Minos corporation’s one-champion escape room challenges. It’s this corporation that leads Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) have returned to New York City to gather evidence on. However, before that they must survive a series of grand-scale set-piece challenges. Each with elaborate designs, clues and puzzles. There’s little time between each new room meaning that the tension is simply driven forward and things become increasingly intense. From an expansive bank setting to a faux beach scene there’s plenty of cleverly written deciphering, mixed in with panicked rushing as the clock ticks and the surroundings completely fall apart. Director Adam Robitel creates within this environments a dark fantastical nature, increasing the sense of unease and tension. As brief glimpses of cameras watching the contestants fight for their lives push the idea of a dark, otherwise unseen presence.
Of course, as with the pleasant surprise that was the first film, there’s likely to be a handful of losses along the way. Those who don’t manage to make it out of each room. There are some interesting choices here and there and a slight sense of immediate impact after some deaths; although those that are lingered on don’t quite have the lasting effect. In fact how far some characters progress certainly holds your interest as the film builds up to a potentially big reveal style ending. Yet, as the ending nears it appears that the screenwriters realise just how many characters they have left and begin to unsatisfyingly dispense of them in quick succession. One after the other. It leads to the formation of an ending which feels as if it’s wanting to build up to something more, and yet knows that it can’t be dragged out too much. Choices and reveals don’t quite land and end up feeling somewhat clunky.
It feels somewhat anticlimactic compared to the well thought through detail and undropped tension that’s been present for much of the previous 45 minutes. A shame for something which otherwise manages to make a highly entertaining, if very tense, experience through the continuation of the core idea from the first film. The characters may find themselves in large rooms with a couple of puzzles, yet because of the context and how the film smoothly travels across its set of events the entertainment factor is boosted and a truly thrilling feature, with some horror elements, is created. Unfortunately, a bit like the train at the start of the film, it slightly comes off the rails a bit meaning that you’re behind the film, but in this case because you haven’t quite had the build-up; with reveals feeling somewhat forced and out of nowhere. A slightly disappointing final solution to what is otherwise an intense and largely enjoyable escape room venture.
While sandwiched in-between some somewhat slow and clunky elements the core escape room course of Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions is an intense, highly enjoyable set of cleverly laid out set-pieces. Throwing you directly into the expansive, tension-lined puzzles.