You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Escape’

This simple but adrenaline-fueled survival tale boasts impressively muscular direction from Norwegian director Roar Uthaug.

Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Isabel Christine Andreasen, Milla Olin, Tobias Santelmann, Hallvard Holmen, Iren Reppen, Hans Jacob Sand, Martin Slaatto, Bjorn Moan, Kristian Espedahl, Richard Skog, Eirik Holden, Clara Lien Sunde.

Set among the isolated forests and fjords of Norway circa 1360, “Escape” is a simple but adrenaline-fueled survival tale. Working with a modest budget and strong distaff talent (including a rare femme antagonist), Norwegian helmer Roar Uthaug (“Cold Prey”) displays an impressively muscular directing style and an instinct for exploiting primal natural locations in this genre-tweaking actioner. Entertainment One took North American rights for this lean, highly cinematic actioner and released it direct to ancillary; curious genre fans will find plenty to like.

As Uthaug envisions it, life in the Middle Ages is nasty, brutish and short. Not long after the opening titles inform us that the Black Death has killed half the population and lawlessness reigns over the countryside, teen heroine Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen) watches helplessly as her parents and younger brother are murdered by a band of feral outlaws. The lascivious bandits are ready to rape Signe and slit her throat, but her life and virtue receive a temporary reprieve from the group’s coolly commanding female leader, Dagmar (a spooky-looking Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Uthaug’s “Cold Prey” star).

At the bandits’ camp, Signe learns that Dagmar plans to use her to breed a baby sister for Frigg (Milla Olin), the shy, refined young girl she treats as a daughter. But it soon becomes clear to Signe as well as to viewers that Frigg doesn’t belong to this bandit clan, since she displays compassion for the captive and distaste for the violence that surrounds her. When Frigg helps Signe to escape, the stage is set for action, setting several tense chase sequences in motion as the girls flee through the spectacular wild landscape.

A brief interlude in the home of a friendly farmer provides some clues into the backstories of Dagmar and Frigg, as well as a chance for Signe to gain new skills and become more aware of those she already has. But as in all good action films, the respite is only temporary.

Genre-savvy scribe Thomas Moldestad (who wrote both of Uthaug’s previous features as well as well as comedies and detective dramas) gives his screenplay some depth by showing how both femme leads are haunted by family members they failed to protect; he also taps into the classic dramatic faceoff between civilization and savagery. Nevertheless, further development of the relationship between Dagmar and her favorite marauder, Arvild (chisled Tobias Santelmann, “Kon Tiki”), would have been welcome.

Moldestad and Uthaug are clearly conscious of the similarity between their story and certain Westerns, and find visual equivalents that reinforce the connection, from Signe’s family’s covered wagon to the teepee-like structures in the outlaw camp to the secluded farmhouse that the bandits besiege. The lensing by ace d.p. John Christian Rosenlund (“The Bothersome Man,” “O’Horten”) also strengthens this link with menacing shots of the high mountains where hidden danger lurks.

Less-is-more thesping pivots on the actors’ physical presence and sheer physicality, with the formidable Bolso Berdal a standout. Apart from a few fleetingly glimpsed anachronisms, the (increasingly grimy) costumes and production design feel right.

The propulsive electronica score by Uthuag’s longtime collaborator Magnus Beite is highly suited to the action, while breathless cutting by Christian Siebenherz keeps the mayhem always from Signe’s perspective, never venturing into torture-porn territory. Special effects are seamless.

Film Review: 'Escape'

Reviewed on DVD, Chicago, June 19, 2013. (In Gothenburg, Karlovy Vary film festivals.) Running time: 76 MIN.

Production: (Norway) An Entertainment One (in U.S.)/Film Europe Pictures (in Czech Republic) release of a Fantefilm production in co-production with Filmkraft Rogaland, Fuzz Film Storyline Studios. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Martin Sundland, Are Heidenstrom. Executive producers, Audun Lyngholm Wittenberg, Hugo Hagemann Fosker, Elle-Beth Lonnestad.

Crew: Directed by Roar Uthaug. Screenplay, Thomas Moldestad. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), John Christian Rosenlund; editor, Christian Siebenherz; music, Magnus Beite; production designer, Astrid Strom Astrup; costume designer, Kjell Nordstrom; sound (Dolby SRD), Hugo Ekornes; visual effects supervisor, Ivan Kondrup Jensen.

With: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Isabel Christine Andreasen, Milla Olin, Tobias Santelmann, Hallvard Holmen, Iren Reppen, Hans Jacob Sand, Martin Slaatto, Bjorn Moan, Kristian Espedahl, Richard Skog, Eirik Holden, Clara Lien Sunde.

More Film

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series tonight (Jan. 15), held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis [...]


    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film Review: ‘Storm Boy’ Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON in Glass. M.

    ‘Glass’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Universal Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Glass.” Ads placed for the superhero thriller had an estimated media value of $9.89 million through Sunday for 1,183 national [...]

  • Danny Glover

    Danny Glover Joins 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' Sequel

    Danny Glover has joined the cast of Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” sequel. His role is being kept under wraps, as is the storyline. Glover will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, all of whom are set to return. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film [...]

  • DJ Khaled Bad Boys

    DJ Khaled Joins 'Bad Boys' Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

    DJ Khaled has rounded out the cast of Sony’s upcoming “Bad Boys” sequel “Bad Boys for Life,” joining returning stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Khaled will also join series newcomers Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Jacob Scipio, and Paola Nuñez. Joe Pantoliano is on board to return as Captain Howard. More Reviews Iranian [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content