The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - ESCAPE ROOM: TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS | The Movie Waffler


Survivors of previous escape rooms must negotiate a deadly new challenge.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam Robitel

Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions poster

Remember escape rooms? A few years ago they replaced paintballing as the de facto team-building activity for workplace days out. The premise of an escape room is that a bunch of people are trapped in a room and must figure out how to escape using whatever objects and clues they find lying about the space. Of course, the pandemic put paid to the fad, which makes this sequel seem almost nostalgic.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions review

Escape rooms were so popular that no less than three movies were released in 2019 under the title 'Escape Room'. All of them were basically conceptual knock-offs of Vicenzo Natali's cult '90s sci-fi Cube, or tamer versions of the Saw sequels, as their protagonists negotiated their way through a series of escape rooms, losing members along the way. The most successful of the three films to bear the same name was a mainstream studio offering from director Adam Robitel, which now gets the sequel treatment.

That film saw a bunch of strangers forced to put their heads together to make it out of a series of elaborate escape rooms alive. Only two managed to survive - shy science nerd Zoey (Taylor Russell) and alcoholic stockroom worker Ben (Logan Miller). This sequel finds the pair struggling to get on with their lives, with Zoey obsessed with exposing the people responsible for their ordeal, a sinister corporation known as Migos who broadcast their torment for the entertainment of online punters.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions review

Following a clue, Zoey and Ben make their way to New York City, but while aboard a subway train they realise they've been duped once more. Their subway carriage disconnects from the rest of the train and traps them along with four strangers. It turns out everyone aboard the carriage is a survivor of one of Migos's escape rooms. Yes folks, it's the Champions League of escape artists.

As with its predecessor, the experience of watching Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a lot like watching a game show. Now, there are two types of game shows – those that the audience can join in with by answering questions along with the participants, and those that the audience simply sits back and watches, generally involving physical rather than mental trials. Watching the Escape Room movies is like watching a game show of the latter variety. It's impossible for the audience to get invested in the travails of the films' protagonists because we're never put in their shoes. In a real escape room you get an overview of your entire situation and can begin to figure out a means of escape by taking in your surroundings. Because cinematic storytelling can only offer you one piece of information at a time, the audience doesn't have that ability here. That means we're never able to figure out the rooms ahead of or even along with our protagonists. That leaves us simply watching as they figure it out for themselves. If ever a concept should have been a video game rather than a movie, it's this one.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions review

This budding franchise doesn't even give us the fun of any elaborate deaths. The unlucky contestants just fall through holes, which allows the possibility for them to pop up later in the story, and also of course enables the film to court a teenage audience. With a bit more invention and the addition of a much needed sense of humour, this could have been a light-hearted rival to the Saw series. I'm sure real life escape rooms are a lot of fun, but this franchise isn't exactly the best advertisement for the activity.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.