Escape From New York

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Escape From New York is a science fiction and action film directed by John Carpenter and released in 1981. In the far future of 1997, New York City has been turned into a maximum security prison by the fascist US government. When Air Force One is hijacked and crashed into the island, the President of the United States (Donald Pleasance) is stranded on the island along with the inmates. In response the United States Police Force send hardened criminal and former special forces operative “Snake” Plissken (Kurt Russell) into New York to rescue the President. To ensure Snake doesn’t go native or turn his glider around, the USPF inject him with two small bombs in his neck that will explode within 24 hours unless Snake returns with the POTUS and his briefcase.

Escape From New York is a very dark and moody film. There isn’t much optimism for the world and the main protagonist is a cold and uncaring anti-hero. This is established early on when Snake simply ignores a woman being assaulted by two NY inmates. Snake’s philosophy can be summed up simply: if it doesn’t effect him personally, he doesn’t give a shit.

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Kurt Russell is immense as the tough badass, it’s a role I can’t imagine anyone else playing, except maybe one of the inspirations for the character, Clint Eastwood. Snake Plissken is possibly the quintessential anti-hero. He’s tough, he has no respect for authority and he will shoot first and ask questions later.

The film is stacked with strong performances, whether it’s Lee van Cleef as the former war hero turned police commissioner Bob Hauk, Harry Dean Stanton as the smug and arrogant “Brain”, Ernest Borgnine as the happy go lucky “Cabbie” or Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York (he’s A#1). Female’s are thin on the ground but Adrienne Barbeau is smoking hot and deadly as Maggie, she is no shrinking violet or damsel in distress.

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One of the best things about this movie is it’s atmosphere and tension. A large part of this is down the incredible musical score that John Carpenter created for this film. Mostly based on moody electronica, the music sets the scene perfectly and features some of the most iconic sounds this side of John Williams. Carpenter is seriously underrated as a musician and composer and Escape From New York is where he gets a chance to shine.

Escape From New York is an incredible film and one of my all time favourites. Many people write it off as a simple cult film that is over hyped by it’s fans but in my honest opinion EFNY is one of the most important movies I’ve ever seen. You can see shades of it in many films, music and videogames since. Some of the love I have for this film may stem from the undeniable influence it had on the Metal Gear Solid series of videogames, which is where I was first introduced to this film (though I had seen the sequel, Escape From LA, when I was a child). As a a huge MGS fan (as many of my blog’s will show) it was probably inevitable that I would absolutely love this film but it does stand apart from that.

Rating: 10/10

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