review for Escape on AllMovie

Escape (1948)
by Craig Butler review

Escape wants to be a Hitchcock-ian thrill ride, but it keeps getting de-railed by its rather ponderous source material. The John Galsworthy play from which it is drawn is a treatise on good and evil, not to mention sin and the inevitable failure of man to escape from sin without the help of divine influence. Heavily allegorical, Galsworthy's work has been lightened considerably by Philip Dunne's screenplay and by Joseph L. Mankiewicz's taut and skillful direction. When they succeed in tossing aside the religious rhetoric and symbolism, the audience is treated to a more-than-decent story that has all the elements necessary to provide some nail biting suspense and a few moments of genuine excitement. Mankiewicz does a very good job of emphasizing the script's strong points, and he uses a number of interesting visual touches to keep things lively during discussions of morality and other weighty issues. The opening shows he is in full command with a dialogue-free sequence that ends by transforming a group of free-flying birds into a free-flying airplane flown by Rex Harrison. For his part, Harrison is in top form, finding multiple levels to play in dialogue that could easily devolve into rants and providing the kind of solid performance that is crucial to anchoring a film of this type. Neither he nor Mankiewicz can overcome the limitations of the script to make Escape a classic, but they do make it fairly engrossing.