Welcome to the Escape Room, where five strangers must either work together in order to survive or die a traumatic death.
The film begins with a brief introduction to six of the main characters we will eventually see challenged in creative and shocking scenarios. As the film navigates from each of the main characters’ lives to the escape room they will have to solve together, it misses the opportunity for the audience to bond with each of the players in the game. By the time all of the players are sitting in the initial the game room and the game begins, we know very little about three of the six characters, and absolutely nothing about the rest. However, the movie’s fast pace is also what keeps the audience on the edge of our seats.
Rather than give us an extensive background of each character up front, the film instead focuses on how each character reacts under the pressure of the situation they are being forced to deal with in order to help us learn more about them.
Zoey, played by Taylor Russell, is a quiet, nerdy math whiz who stands out as one of the most likable characters, and also an unlikely hero. In the first room, a 450-degree oven threatening to cook the characters alive, we find that her ability to find clues and put them together helps the group find a way out of each subsequent room they encounter.
This is a stark contrast to Mike, played by Tyler Labine. The first time we meet Mike is in the escape room itself, and it’s clear that he’s there as a source of comedic relief rather than a key problem solver for the team. Similarly, Danny, played by Nik Dodani, is an escape room enthusiast that initially gives the audience the impression that he’ll have a lot of the answers the group needs. Instead, he delivers a source of laughter but soon becomes the first character to die by the time they reach the second room of the puzzle.
As each character experiences the escape room in their own way, we’re shown flashbacks of traumatic memories of their past. When crawling through an air duct to avoid being cooked alive in the first room, the second heroine of the film, Amanda, played by Deborah Ann Woll, is reminded of the time she served in Iraq. Frozen by these vivid recollections, it takes encouragement from Zoey to help her keep going. The two quickly form a bond that causes Amanda’s sacrificial death in the third room–an upside down pool hall with a floor that drops from beneath them every few minutes–to have a profound effect on Zoey’s determination to beat the puzzle’s creators at their own game.
While Amanda’s death revealed an admirable streak of loyalty in Zoey, the lack of effect it had on Jason, played by Jay Ellis, showed us just the opposite qualities in his character. Jason previously showed hints of an “every man for himself” mentality prior to Amanda’s demise. However, the absence of empathy towards the other characters combined with his lack of hesitation in killing his fellow escape room player in the fourth room brought out a side of him that made him an antagonist among the players that remained. Of these remaining characters, Ben, played by Logan Miller, demonstrated no signs of heroism, intelligence, or bravery throughout the majority of the film. However, when locked in a room with Jason where only one of them could make it out alive, he was forced to engage in a one-on-one battle for survival.
Ultimately, Escape Room was an exciting movie, with ample twists and turns to keep viewers guessing about what would await each character as the movie progressed. Although the relationships that developed between the characters throughout each challenge revealed some aspects of their personalities, the fast pace and lack of development of those personalities from beginning to end prevented the viewer from getting too attached. However, perhaps due to the nature of the sudden and unexpected deaths throughout the film, that was intentional.