Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the sequel to 2019’s Escape Room, a series of action horrors set in, you guessed it, escape rooms. Despite a fairly ridiculous plot, I enjoyed the first film immensely and I’m pleased to say I felt the same about this sequel.
Spoiler alert, but the plot follows on directly from the ending of the first film. Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) survived the escape room and escaped from the clutches of Minos, the shady corporation behind the rooms. Unsatisfied with simply surviving, at the end of the first film Zoey discovered that the Minos logo contained coordinates to a location in New York and persuades Ben to travel there with her to take them down.
Tournament of Champions picks up here, with Zoey and Ben having had numerous failed attempts to catch a flight to New York due to Zoey’s past air crash trauma (and the reason why she’d been chosen for their original escape room). After recounting the events of the first film to a therapist, including a poignant discussion with war veteran Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), Zoey and Ben decide to drive to New York to find Minos and uncover evidence that would take down their operation. On route, we discover both are obviously suffering from a form of PTSD following on from their first escape room.
On arriving in New York they discover the Minos coordinates lead them to a derelict building site, with no signs of life. They climb through a broken fence and are accosted by a thief, who steals a memento from Zoey that belonged to her mother and runs off. The pair chase after him and are led into a subway station and onto a train, which the thief manages to get off before the doors close and the train departs, leaving Zoey and Ben stuck. Hearing strange noises, the pair witness the subway carriage they’re in detaching from the rest of the train and veer off on a separate part of the track, coming abruptly to rest at a dead-end unused station.
Unable to open the doors, Zoey and Ben soon discover that the other passengers in the carriage they’re in are also survivors of Minos escape rooms. There’s priest Nate (Thomas Cocquerel), travel blogger Brianna (Indya Moore), pain freak Rachel (Holland Roden) and panicked Theo (Carlito Olivero). After uncovering their connection, the train is electrified at increasing intensity and the group must work together to survive yet another series of escape rooms.
I will hold my hands up and say that I’m a massive escape room aficionado, and I think this is mostly why I enjoyed this film so much. The scenes in each escape room are incredibly tense and nail-biting, and aside from the risk of a very painful death, the format of the rooms is very true to life. The hidden codes, keys and locks are a major aspect of real-life escape rooms and seeing them used here and in a very well done way, gives me a rather happy satisfied feeling. I did feel in this sequel that some of the rooms felt rushed and didn’t concentrate on highlighting the clues and red herrings or the layout of the room, instead preferring to head straight into the action.
One thing I loved about this film is that it (mostly) doesn’t waste time on unnecessary exposition or character development. We get a cursory introduction to the characters Ben and Zoey team up with, but as their only purpose is to further their progress through the rooms and suffer increasingly more painful deaths, we don’t get any further backstory and for a film like this, it actually works. What is pointless is the montage recap of the first film and the flashbacks in the final act to scenes from earlier in the film. They feel incredibly forced and unsubtle, like we as viewers are not intelligent enough to recall these ourselves.
I’m also in two minds about the ending. The twist in the final act wasn’t entirely unpredictable and I’m unsure as to whether I liked this or not. Without giving away too much, it just seems a bit silly even for a film as farfetched as this. And the actual ending itself was far too predictable, especially for anyone who recalls the ending of the last film and while I can appreciate why they’ve ended it this way, something completely different would’ve been much more satisfying and surprising. The sequel set-up is also cringingly obvious, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in seeing a third film!
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions isn’t perfect and there are some rather irritating and frustrating aspects that do drag it down. However, for the most part, this is a thrilling, edge of your seat watch that is more enjoyable than you’d expect, especially for escape room fans.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!