|Paramount Pictures | Release Date: June 22, 1979||CRITIC SCORE DISTRIBUTION|
Dirty Harry director Don Siegel reunited with Clint Eastwood for this taut 1979 thriller about real-life bank robber Frank Morris, who led the one possibly successful (bodies were never found) escape attempt from the notorious maximum-security prison on San Francisco's Alcatraz Island. Read full review
For almost all of its length, Escape from Alcatraz is a taut and toughly wrought portrait of life in a prison. It is also a masterful piece of storytelling, in which the characters say little and the camera explains the action. It's one of those very difficult exercises in which large emotions, like the compulsion to be free, are reflected in minute actions, like the chipping away at stone with a pocket nail clipper. Read full review
The major reason for Escape's success is Siegel's effortless expertise in re-creating the atmosphere of Alcatraz, an atmosphere in which, as the Warden says, good citizens were not made, but good prisoners were. As photographed by Bruce Surtees in rainy black and blue, the dogged, slow-motion swim through excelsior that constitutes prison existence is painfully and convincingly reproduced. For Eastwood, there is an extra bonus: if the milieu doesn't provide him with a reason for his stubbornly characteristic grimness, it does at least provide an excuse. [23 June 1979]
Screenwriter Richard Tuggle and director Don Siegel provide a model of super-efficient filmmaking. From the moment Clint Eastwood walks onto The Rock to the final title card explaining the three escapees were never heard from again, Escape from Alcatraz is relentless in establishing a mood and pace of unrelieved tension.
It's not an action film: there's little in the way of exciting set pieces, and Eastwood's restrained performance is low-key almost to the point of minimalism. Rather, as he slowly tries to tunnel out with a pair of nail-clippers, it's an austere depiction of the tedious routines of prison life, and of the courage and strength of spirit needed in coping with unpleasant warders, tough fellow-inmates, and a life sentence. Read full review