Like Memento, The Escapist, screening as part of the University of Colorado's International Film Series, freshens what could have been a genre exercise by fiddling about with the overall structure. At its most basic level, director/co-writer Rupert Wyatt's offering is a standard get-out-of-jail-and-be-free tale, in which a group of fairly stock prisoners — well played by, among others, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Liam Cunningham — try to trade in their cells for more pleasant accommodations. But rather than depict the action chronologically, thereby confining the escape attempt to the movie's second half, Wyatt intercuts the execution with the planning from the very first moments. Such an approach risks depleting the tension generated by an accretion of details, but the plot regularly spins off unexpectedly suspenseful tangents that keep the pace percolating, and an eleventh-hour twist causes the viewer to reconsider everything that's taken place during both narrative streams. The Escapist breaks from convention without truly abandoning it, then gets away clean.
The movie unspools at 7 and 9:15 p.m. Thursday, September 24, at Muenzinger Auditorium, on the CU-Boulder campus. Tickets — $6 for the general public, $5 for CU-Boulder students — go on sale thirty minutes before each show. Get directions and details at 303-492-1531 or www.internationalfilmseries.com.