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HomeMovieEscape movie review & film summary (2024)

Escape movie review & film summary (2024)


“Escape” begins with some promise. We meet hyper-focused North Korean Sergeant Lim Kyu-nam (Lee Je-hoon) as he sneaks out of his barracks in the dead of night, shimmies past some guards, and plants a few stakes on the way to the Military Demarcation Line. Lim plotted a safe course through a literal mine field, and his path became a little clearer every night. He returns to base, where he’s confronted by a few reminders of why he must take off and soon. 

Deserters get shot, as a scare video reminds Lim and his fellow soldiers, but family and freedom await in South Korea, as anxious comrade Kim Dong-hyuk (Hong Xa-bin) reminds Lim. Kim’s seen Lim at work and wants to go South, too, since “Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. I miss her terribly.” They soon get caught, and Kim takes the blame. That’s about the same time when Lim’s original plans go out the window, forcing him to improvise his way toward freedom. The implacable Field Officer Li Hyun-sang (Koo Kyo-hwan) unexpectedly promotes him for detaining Kim. There’s an award ceremony for Lim, which gives him a perfect opportunity to, well, you know.

It’s sometimes thrilling to see Lim struggling to get his bearings after his initial plans fall through. His disorientation goes against what little we know about his character, based on the old “Tenacious Explorer Armundsen” boy’s adventure paperback that he cherishes and a handful of action-intensive establishing scenes. In these early scenes, we see Lim run, plot, and bide his time. Then, we see him struggle to figure out what to do when he’s heaped with praise that he hasn’t earned. Lim credits Li with his success during an unrehearsed speech, and in doing so, he inadvertently gives the military the sort of tribute it expects. Then Lim finds another opportunity to get away.

Problems first arise when Li enters Lim’s story. We learn about Li through a handful of scenes that contrast Lim with his vigilant pursuer, a threadbare antagonist whose compulsive need to stop Lim overcompensates for some things. Unfortunately, Lee’s performance as Li doesn’t express much beyond an exaggerated twitchiness, which makes it hard to care when he liberally applies dramatic shorthand to Li’s scenes. For example, Li plays the piano for his fellow officers at Lim’s award reception, which lays the foundation for a couple of scenes about Li’s thwarted ambitions. Unfortunately, those scenes indicate more than they express about what’s wrong with Li, who, like a lot of genre movie villains, chases after whoever dares to pursue their dreams.

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