WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, the Recap:
The search for utopia. A seeking of the state of euphoric bliss that will inundate our senses and free us from the world around us, even if only for a time, so that we may have a peaceful state of mind. Yet, in this dogged pursuit for that which seems ever so elusive, is the price it bears worth the discovery? A man named Lambert (Julian Sands) slowly trudges his way across what seems to be a forlorn shoreline, making it to the back alleys of an unnamed city, past hooded strangers, to a guarded door. Even after entering, it seems apparent the hesitation and uncertainty of the choices made to reach this juncture.
Upon meeting the man in charge, Kellan (Art Malik), Lambert’s dilemma only grows stronger, as he is offered the opportunity to “vanish” from the troubled reality around him and choose to encounter whatever actuality he might desire–an immersive, all-encompassing journey. Lambert’s wariness visible, Kellan’s steady, firm, and persuasive voice tells of new realms beyond our own that can be accessed and experienced, a complete and utter refuge. Desiring to think about it, Lambert ultimately retreats home, where in he finds comfort via his wife Sarah (Olivia Williams) and their children. However, what is it to escape it all, yet pay with everything you have?
Next, my Mind:
With its eerie atmosphere, sci-fi-based premise, ominous music score, stellar cast, and well-written narrative, this 18-minute short film from director Paul J. Franklin, based on the original story from writer Robert Sheckley, presents itself with quality execution and decidedly haunting themes about our need as human beings to find perfection as a means of fleeing harsh truths while potentially making almost Faustian arrangements to do so. Then, of course, it seriously begs the query as to whether it is worth such a steep price for the sake of only moments in time we could actually still cherish if willing to let go of tragedy and simply reminisce about better days in order to maintain release in our current state of existence, rather than having to sacrifice more than we already have. Intentionally enigmatic to perfect degrees with the necessary elements involved, the film deftly places us in the heart of Lambert’s conundrum and allows us to affectingly decide right along with him what we might choose to do in his shoes, all leading to a stirring and jarring finale.
Sands has always been one of my personal favorite character actors, as he brings such a uniquely commanding presence to the screen, yet does it often with such effectively understated delivery that only makes the character that much more engaging, and this effort is no exception. As Lambert, a man desperate beyond measure to abscond from his current reality, though initially doubtful to actually go through with it, Sands flexes these excellent nuances to a “T”. Watching as Lambert is extended the chance to alleviate his mental anguish is both effective and realistic as he attempts to ascertain what it will truly mean to give up so much for what will only amount to a brief “fix”. His decision might be driven by sheer grief or by another initially undetermined source of pain, but the film smartly avoids any revelation until the end, and Sands capitalizes on all of this with awesome poise.
Malik is another actor who excels in deeply engaging characters, and here as well, there is no exception in his role as Kellan, a rather imposing man whose stark manner and darkly purposeful means of providing the “services” he does only adds to the forbidding mood he elicits. It’s like he preys on lonely and/or despairing souls specifically to the point of making the final decision of whether they take him up on his offer for them, smoothly manipulating their wants and needs in a very calculated way. Like any dealer of illicit material, the results of his ministrations only cause a wanting for more, only this time the drug of choice are dreams of one’s personal Eden. Williams also brings her adept skills to bear even as a supporting player here, playing Lambert’s wife Sarah, who can read her husband like a book, knowing there is an unsettled mind within him while she expresses the desires of her own heart as to the importance of their family bonds.
Additional turns are given from Ben Miller as Mike, one of Lambert’s business partners, Steven Cree as a random businessman, Tony Denham as Kellan’s hired muscle, and Mimi Keene as Lambert and Sarah’s daughter Megan. In total, with its deeper themes about what we leave behind, what we’re willing to risk for release, the potential addiction to that “freedom”, and how much will we continue to relinquish instead of just letting go, “The Escape” stands as a very worthy short film effort that deserves the recognition it’s already garnered and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!