The Escapist (15)

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The Independent Culture

Having recently pigged out on two seasons' worth of Prison Break on DVD, the last thing I needed was a British thriller on the subject. Yet Rupert Wyatt's gritty direction and laconic script (with Daniel Hardy) provide, if not quite the slickness of the TV show, at least as much grim institutional atmosphere.

Brian Cox plays the old lag who recruits a team of likely cons (Liam Cunningham, Seu Jorge, Joseph Fiennes) to help him organise an escape through the infernal tunnels beneath the nick. But it still leaves him with the problem of his young cellmate (Dominic Cooper) – Godber to his Fletcher – who's in dire trouble with evil prison overlord Damian Lewis.

Structured in a dexterous shuttle between the breakout and the build-up, the film keeps us guessing, a little, as to whose nerve will hold, and springs a last-gasp twist that actually makes sense. Some of the casting decisions are rather baffling, but this is a very creditable attempt at a genre that seemed done to death.

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