This basically true story of a daring escape from a Stalin-era labor camp in Central Europe should have been more gripping than it is. In the hands of vet director Livia Gyarmathy, the tension so important to such a story is allowed all too often to slip away, though there are some undeniably powerful moments. International distribution looks iffy.
“Escape” was inspired by the personal experiences of screenwriter Geza Boszormenyi, Gyarmathy’s husband, who, as an apolitical 20-year-old student in 1950, was sent to Hungary’s secret gulag merely because he was seen talking in the street to a wanted man. Seven men managed to escape the camp, but only one survived and reached the West. He had memorized the names of some 600 prisoners, and broadcast them over Radio Free Europe, which is how Boszormenyi’s father discovered his son was still alive.
From this potent material emerges a standard prison-camp and escape film. Conditions in the camp are terrible, with the men forced to do manual labor while kept close to starvation. Pic’s hero, Gyula Molnar (Artur Zmijewski), is determined to escape, and though the camp commandant, played by a steely-eyed Daniel Olbrychski, has his eye on him, he eventually manages to break out, along with some companions.
All of this is handled decently but without inspiration, with part of the problem being Zmijewski’s rather bland performance in the lead. Pic never makes clear how far the men had to travel to reach safety, further reducing audience involvement.
Production credits are OK, except for a wholly inappropriate song that plays over the end credits.