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Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // July 16, 2021
List Price: Unknown
Escape rooms are fun attractions that are enjoyed by friends, couples, families, and are even used for team-building at some companies. The problem-solving that goes into them can get quite tricky, depending on the difficulty of the room. When the first Escape Room film was released in 2019, I was surprised by the fact that it was decently entertaining. While many labeled it as a PG-13 Saw, I viewed it as more of a PG-13 Cube mixed with some of the antagonist motivations of Hostel. However, It focuses less on the torture elements and more on the puzzle-solving, although Escape Room is of course much more watered down than the 1997 feature. Similar to the previous installment, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is entertaining, albeit flawed.
Following the events of the previous film, the sequel is set from the perspective of Zoey (Taylor Russell). After surviving her set of deadly escape rooms along with Ben (Logan Miller), they are both suffering from the trauma of what they endured. While Ben wants to try and move on, Zoey is determined to find the people who are responsible for what they went through to ensure that they never do it again. After following the coordinates found in the logo, they're taken to New York. The two soon find themselves locked in a train car with four other people, where they quickly discover that everybody in the train car had previously survived the deadly games. Now that they're in a game of all-winners, they must work together to play the game once again, but this time the puzzles are harder.
The film is directed by Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan) and written by Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel. As is the case with all of these puzzle/trap films, there's always a connection between those who were selected. In the case of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, the connection is in the title; they have all proven to be the best of their previous group that they played the game with. While the end of the previous installment explored some of the reasoning for why these games are taking place, this sequel doesn't really give much more exposition. Keeping the antagonist of the story a faceless entity works rather well, making it truly feel like danger could be around any corner.
As far as the escape rooms themselves, the film truly starts out with a bang, or rather a shock. The film does a good job of establishing the stakes and the connection between the characters from the start, allowing the audience to truly appreciate the escape rooms. While many of the clues scattered around the environments are made relatively obvious to us as the audience, it's still entertaining to watch as the participants uncover them to be led to the next clue. The second room manages to maintain the same level of tension explored in the first one, which kept me on the edge of my seat.
Beginning with the third room, the film starts to falter; it begins to lose its extreme sense of urgency. While there are a few good moments still to come, it isn't as consistently taut as everything had been leading through the first two rooms. Once the film moves into its climax, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions falls victim to overly-predictable absurdity. The "big twist" is made a bit too obvious with its foreshadowing, making the payoff feel muted. It should come as no surprise that the film leaves the door wide open for a third installment.
There are some pretty odd choices made in this sequel, although it does fully embrace the craziness. It's self-aware and knows how absurd its plot is and how it only gets more so as the story continues to unfold. There's no denying how entertaining these films are. Especially when considering that the runtime is only 88 minutes long, it's a quick piece of escapism that overall succeeds at what it intends to do. The previous film is superior, although at least the sequel isn't afraid to embrace its logic that makes no sense for the sake of "why not?" Escape Room: Tournament of Champions has a pretty disappointing third act, but the film's puzzles make this a fun ride.