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Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Escape Rooms have become a very popular new past-time. Some companies creating ever more elaborate escape rooms for people to test their wits. It’s ultimately up to the participants to disentangle their way out of a maze of rooms. It’s a given that such an idea has been turned into films. ‘Escape Room: Tournament of Champions’ is a sequel to the 2019 thriller. Spinning the concept to its deadly zenith, the second outing is just as engaging with the viewer hoping to never encounter the film’s wicked traps for real.

Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) are survivors of the harrowing escape rooms designed by the shadowy Minos Corporation. Seeking justice, they travel to New York to confront those responsible. Their journey is unexpectedly interrupted as they find themselves caught in another trap. Meeting other former escape room participants, Zoey and Ben have to once again use all their analytical knowledge to overcome the torturous obstacles and defeat the Minos Corporation once and for all.

‘Escape Room 2’ is a satisfying instalment in the series. It differs from similar films in the way in which the psychological mind games are as important as the physical ones. Each contestant is forced to use thinking skills in order to survive. Any small misstep can spell doom for all involved. Strong performances help in making you care about what happens. There’s never a moment where you want certain characters to meet their fate as all equally allow you to invest in their plight and overall story.

A lot of the success goes to returning director Adam Robitel who successfully generates genuine tension. He isn’t simply rehashing what’s been done before as an authentic atmosphere of dread continually percolates. Although the traps are even more spectacular in their danger, there’s more a focus on participant’s relationships, which of course is a crucial key to escaping any of these rooms. Less emphasis on gore and more on thinking allows ‘Escape Room 2’ to stay memorable as the viewer joins in solving clues along with the characters.

As sequels go, ‘Escape Room 2’ is a notch above others. It logically follows on from its predecessor whilst adding intrigue into the shadowy world in which the characters find themselves. There’s a ghoulish kind of fun to be had with the possibility of a third ‘Escape Room’ not as unwelcome as being trapped in one of its perilous chambers.

Rating out of 10: 7

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Let Them All Talk

Like any artist, Steven Soderbergh knows how to paint his canvas. Having directed several hit movies, he knows how to draw the best out of actors. Those he assembles have appreciated his more authentic style while still delivering crowd-pleasing stories. Although more low-key than previous work, ‘Let Them All Talk’ benefits from a talented cast. With mostly improvised dialogue and using as much natural lighting as possible, ‘Let Them All Talk’ is another refreshing change for a director continually painting with different cinematic brushes.

Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is a prize winning author travelling on the Queen Mary cruise ship to England. Journeying to receive another award, she brings along close friends Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest). Also joining them is Alice’s nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges). During the journey the way past and present revelations make the trip one that will never quickly forgotten.

Soderbergh delivers another excellent movie. Walking the tightrope between experimental film-making and traditionally crafted story-telling, ‘Let Them All Talk’ is consistently engaging. Much of that is due to the always watchable performers. You can’t go wrong with Streep, Bergen and Wiest in the same movie, with all apparently working on the film for little money. The smartly written script and a free cruise would have been star attractions. Their characters are expertly interwoven in the film’s main theme of communication and how too much or the lack thereof can affect lives.

The very simple story moves at a brisk pace, always maintaining interest. ‘Let Them All Talk’ benefits from the unusual cinematography, with natural light making events feel more realistic. It’s also a good advert for the Queen Mary, as its luxurious confines stands witness to the ladies’ personal dramas.

Not much else can be said for ‘Let Them All Talk’. Soderberg delivers another interesting and engrossing movie. It’s a fine addition to his eclectic catalogue of commercial films laced with an independent film-making style. The release of his new movies are always worth the wait, as his latest proves his directorial skills remain undimmed.

Rating out of 10: 8

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO RENT ON AMAZON PRIME.