Genius Products // 2006 // 111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 29th, 2008
"So you'll have a revolution, by betraying those who've done nothing."
A harrowing experience on DVD, Chronicle of an Escape is a memorable prison break movie.
A young goalie from Argentina named Claudio (Rodrigo de la Serna) finds himself caught completely off guard, when some goons from the government blindside him at his house, throw a blindfold over his eyes, and cart him to a secret prison. There, he's brutally tortured, interrogated about "contacts" and "terrorist associates" and tossed into a holding facility with other detainees.
Confused and frightened, Claudio desperately tries to reason his way out of his ghoulish predicament, but after 100+ days in confinement it's obvious that's not happening. So one night he and his pals decide their situation is so helpless they need to embark on an escape, no matter the danger. And they have to do it all completely naked.
Wow, to steal a line of dialogue from the film, "This is some heavy sh*t." The inspired-by-true-events saga of a man imprisoned in a makeshift government interrogation facility and subjected to a harsh treatment at the hands of his captors is a pounding, visceral experience.
Much of that has to do with the way Chronicle of an Escape was filmed: Tightly zoomed, hand-held, and claustrophobic. Many shots are framed with someone's face in the extreme foreground -- typically one of the prisoner's -- with action taking place behind them. All the dialogue is just as up close and personal, designed to craft a tangible sense of oppression from the surroundings, the captors, and the utter confusion and terror of the scenario.
And it works. The build-up to the promised escape attempt is tense and unpredictable, which is remarkable because you know at some point there's going to be an escape. The bond formed among the four friends who hatch the plan, juxtaposed with the brutality of the interrogators of the military junta (who were in power at the time, the late 1970s), elicits a powerful desire to see these guys head for the @#$%@$ hills.
When that escape eventually does happen, in the rainy dead of night, with hardly any dialogue, our heroes stark naked (!), you're looking at an absolutely riveting 20 minutes. Once they're out of the detention center -- an old mansion, which makes it all even more sinister -- all bets are off, and the unpredictability sets in. Will they all survive? Will they be captured and sent back for some more torture? Maybe just one gets away? Those questions swirl, leading to a profoundly suspenseful denouement. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that the end credits brought a sense of relief, a welcome feeling after the non-stop bleakness.
In short, it's been a long time since I've seen a gritty escape film (and no, Prison Break doesn't count) and this release should satisfy anyone craving a tense, edgy haul-ass-out-of-captivity experience.
A beautiful video transfer (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and a 5.1 surround mix team up for a noteworthy technical presentation. A nifty selection of extras: Deleted scenes, a nice making-of documentary, biographies, and the highlight -- a visit with two of the real-life former captives.
This film deserves the R, for some implied torture (interestingly, the most brutal stuff is kept out of frame, but that doesn't make it any less unsettling) and lots of nudity. FWIW.
A great disc and a great film. Recommended.
Not guilty. And for Argentina, a stiff fine. You kind of sucked for a while there.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes