Review of “The Escape” by Neill Blomkamp

In 2001, BMW produced a groundbreaking marketing series called “The Hire” starring Clive Owen as “The Driver” and directed by A-list helmers such as Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, Wong Kar Wai, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Woo or Tony Scott.

Now, in the midst of the worldwide reboot mania, BMW is not immune to the trend either, having revisited one of its most famous piece of marketing to date. Indeed, fifteen years later, the company has released “The Escape”, an 11-minute short film directed by Neill Blomkamp known for “Elysium” and with Clive Owen back in the driver’s seat. The short film premiered on on 23 October.

The latest installment in BMW’s short film series follows Lily, a clone – or rather product of illegal human biogenetic experimentation – who “The Driver” has to deliver to an evil buyer. The lab where she was made is being raided by the FBI while a private security team, led by Holt, the head mercenary for the shady bio genetics company that created her, tries to extricate her before the Feds arrive on location. Finally, Dr. Nora Phillips is the woman who might hold the key to this complicated situation.

We are immediately pulled in the madness of it all, in the thick of the action and we have no time to figure out what’s going on. But, the plot being very predictable, timely and resembling much of the current TV series, it is possible to decipher it very quickly. The appeal here is evidently the A-list names and so is the action: the guns, the cars, the chase, the damsel in distress, the bioengineering, the FBI, Clive Owen behind the wheel and the quiet mysteriousness of his character… But, even with the conventional action hero trope – and perhaps precisely because of it – the film suffers. It suffers because it has difficulties appealing to the audience on an emotional level. However, we cannot ask for emotions in an action film… As a matter of fact, “The Escape” cannot be praised for its character development – and we do not expect it to deliver there – but rather for its outstanding action.

Moreover, even though it does not always feel like a commercial, it does use the subliminal talk to put the viewers in the “buying mode” by referring to Lily as “the merchandise” and “the customer” as the nefarious person supposed to have bought her.

As far as the acting is concerned, it is absolutely top-notch in spite of the forced chemistry between Dakota Fanning and Clive Owen and Vera Farmiga and the former having very little to do here. Techs are extremely polished, especially Mannie Ferreira’s superior cinematography that uses a mix of close-ups, aerials and hand-held shots.

In short, “The Escape” is a smart, interesting and well-crafted short, heavy on the action, light on story development, that is praising the attributes of BMW’s line of luxury cars, here being the ability to single-handedly bring down a helicopter. We didn’t mind escaping reality with this short and we wouldn’t mind escaping villains in the new BMW 5 Series Sedan either…

Production: Anonymous Content, BMW Films, Geisel Productions (USA 2016)
Executive producers: Bruce Bildstein, SueEllen Clair, Steve Golin
Producers: Brian DiLorenzo, Aristides McGarry, Eric Stern
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp and David Carter
Cinematography: Mannie Ferreira
Music: Kristopher Pooley
Production Design: Gerald Sullivan
Costume design: Susan Matheson
Editing: Julian Clarke, Austyn Daines, Davin Maurer, Angus Wall

Cast: Clive Owen, Jon Bernthal, Dakota Fanning, Vera Farmiga

Color – 11 min.
Premiere: 23/10/2016

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