By: Justin Hopkins
July 10th marked the 40th Anniversary of John Carpenters Escape From New York. A Science Fiction Action movie, starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken and I couldn’t think of a better movie to talk about for this months Classic 13. When I watched this movie when I was a kid to watch it a few times before it grew on me. See, I watched Escape From L.A first and the tone shifts were a bit jarring, but that is for another time. Lets jump in and see what makes Escape From New York a Classic.
We start off with voice over telling explaining that after crime had skyrocketed to 400 percent in 1988. New York had been converted to a Maximum Security Prison, for the entirety of the county. A fifty foot wall surrounding Manhattan Island with mines on the bridges. The only inhabitants are prisoners. If you go in; you don’t come back. We jump to 1997. Where we see two prisoners getting blown up when they tried to escape on a make shift raft. We jump back to the base and see the arrival of Snake Plissken. Who is in cuffs and being led down the hall and is stopped by someone. While that was going on, they had an issue of a plane entering the city. A terrorist had taken it over and flying it into the city. Going to crash it, when they run the name they learn that it is in fact Air Force One that is being taken down. The President manages to make it out in an escape pod. They rush in to get him, but he i s already gone and are confronted by a guy. Who shows them the president’s cut off finger and tells them they have thirty seconds to get out. Which brings us back to why they stopped Snake. A war Hero turned criminal. They offer him a pardon to go in and bring the president back in 24 hours, for the Hartford Summit. He agrees but while he is getting ready, he unwittingly gets injected with a heat charges. That will blow out his arteries if he doesn’t make it back in time. He makes it in with relatively no issues. Even manages to track the President’s Vital blip on the devise only it is not on the president, but a drunk and they are not letting him comeback without the President. Leaving him to have to track the President down in the city before it is to late.
The Cinematography in this movie is gorgeous. Keeping the lights down and using the darkness to their advantages. Never knowing if what you saw is something important or just a crazy running around. The city being a dark and gritty place that you did not want to find yourself in. The score was spot on. From building up hype during the opening credits to the music going when the crazies were coming out if the sewers. Ambient noise was just as prevalent though. Just letting the sounds of what was going on carry and build the tension. Had a lot of fun with what the world the prisoners have concocted with what they had. I really want the chandeliers on my car asap. Carpenter did wonderfully in this area.
The story was a wild one but played really well and the pacing was good. On top of the ticking clock on Snake’s wrist, you ended up having so many pieces. Had Brain and Maggie working behind his back. Figuring out how he got in and went to save the President by themselves. To the tape floating out in the world. Leaving you wondering how Snake would escape captivity and pull it all together and generally had me enticed to see how it concluded. I loved all the little nods to Snake’s past. How everyone thought he was dead and the ties he had top Brain. Making you wonder, but never really telling or showing. Just letting his legend grow.
The cast killed it here. Kurt Russell created such an amazing, memorable character in Snake Plissken. He just went for it and owned every scene he is in. Brought such a presence and demeanor to the character that stays with you after it is over and it is almost a shame that we didn’t get an encounter between him and Frank Doubleday’s Romero, who was just the best. He turned up the charisma and eccentricity to this character. He was creepy and unnerving and it was amazing. Donald Pleasence was excellent as the president. Nailing the fear he had when he was prisoner. Especially with the line over not being able to stop shaking. Than on a dime, not caring about any of the ones who died to save him. Setting up for the end perfectly. Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Bardeau nailed it as Brain and Maggie. We didn’t get to see much of Isaac Hayes as the Duke and that is kind of a down, but the time we spent with the Duke was all postive.
The ending was fantastic and felt perfect. One small little move of Snake pocketing the two tapes to give them the wrong one was perfect revenge for what they did to him. Sticking it to the cops who used and nearly killed him and the President who couldn’t be bothered to show respect to those who died to get him here and just… perfect way to close off on.
I have no negatives. This was just a fun Sci-Fi Action movie. A memorable character in Snake Plissken, an excellent cast and a wild story. A classic for a reason. That is fun to watch at any time. Gladly suggest checking it out if you haven’t already. Final Grade – S
As always, I hope you enjoyed and….
Thank You For Reading!!!!