• Rose East

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

Finally, I got to watch Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) directed by Adam Robitel. Last year one of my favorite podcasts reviewed this movie and the first Escape Room and despite me wanting to listen I have put it off until now so as to not get spoilers.

The movie is what it sounds like, a sequel to the mega-evil corporate sponsored escape room battle to the death but this time it’s people who have been in the escape rooms before and survived. Zoey, played by Taylor Russell, is the main character who survived Minos’ escape rooms from the first movie with our other main character, Ben, played by Logan Miller. She is determined to expose the corporation that holds the escape rooms and in turn the escape rooms and the sponsors themselves. Those who not only pay for but watch the escape room dramas unfold.

Zoey is not happy with endangering only herself though, she decides that Ben who escaped with her from their own game is going to be her sidekick on this adventure. Said adventure takes them to New York City. The plot of the movie is as expected, there are clues in each room that they must solve to escape before the room becomes their grave.

We get an electrified subway car, a 1920’s esq bank with a pressure activated laser grid, a beachfront of sand sinking into a pit, a city street with deadly acid rain, and a child’s room with a drown tank at the end. The clues in each room build good tension and at the end we learn that Amanda, played by Deborah Ann Woll, who we thought died in the first movie designed the rooms after being captured in the last game. The rooms are modeled after Sonya, her daughter, and to keep the rooms going and exciting the corporation takes former players hostage to build another game. Their belief being who better to build the games than those who survived them.

So now to what I really want to explore in this review, which is how the hell this corporation has been able to not only make these games but have them take place in one of the largest cities in the world without detection.

Let me explain. We kicked the game off with the subway car. Zoey and Ben get to New York and head directly to the coordinates that they found in Minos’ logo, assuming that’s the place of their headquarters. They park in the middle of the road and decide to just bust into this broken down building with no tools or foresight. This is already a horrible idea and would take a lot of foresight on Minos’ part to know they would be here at this time unarmed and without media tagging along to capture it.

To get Zoey and Ben onto the subway car a sketchy man steals her necklace, they give chase, and to escape he makes them believe he’s on the subway and the doors close before they get off only to find he’s on the platform. Seemingly this is a random event that has so many moving parts it cannot possibly be planned. BUT IT IS.

All the people on the subway car are the participants and former winners of their game. How the hell did they get them all on a subway car in the middle of New York City at the same time with no other random people on said subway car?! Not only this but they drove to New York City so if I am to believe that they are in some sort of simulation and not actual New York City how the hell did they get faked out like that?!

So, this subway car is not only where we trap them but it’s also a super high tech escape room. If Zoe is the target all along to build the next game, how could they have ensured that she didn’t die in this or any of the other rooms? Oh, that’s right, they couldn’t.

We learn now that Minos is more messed up than originally thought. Not only do they torture humans in escape room settings for entertainment and monetary gain, but they run experiments by orchestrating who is in the rooms. Zoe and Ben were sole survivors of accidents and so were all the contestants in their game. Nathan, played by Thomas Cocquerel, is a priest who participated in a game with other priests who is now a raging alcoholic as a result of the trauma he faced in game. We have Rachel, played by Holland Roden, who cannot feel pain due to a genetic discrepancy and alludes to her game being especially messed up because Minos wanted to see to what extent they could push her and other people like her. Brianna, played by Indya Moore, beat out other influencers and gained a nasty scar on her face as a result. The guy who dies first and who we know the least about, Theo, played by Carlito Olivero, was submerged so deep in a submarine that his eardrums burst in his game.

Despite all of them believing since they won, they earned freedom, here they are again, still monitored and trapped Minos. In the final room Zoey uses her science knowledge to break herself, Ben, and Amanda out of the game. They easily escape down some stairs and into a New York City alley. We cut to scenes of news coverage explaining that Minos has been taken down and exposed for their evil ways. Zoe and Ben are approached by a man in the police station who tells them the justice department will be in touch regarding next steps and they can head home.

I knew right here something wasn't right. Who exposes a whole corporation for abducting and torturing human beings and then is told to just go home and chill? No press conferences or paparazzi following them around? No police escorts in case of retaliation? No lawyers, publicists, or agents clamoring to represent them? Nothing, just get on a plane.

That’s what they do, which is huge for Zoe considering her sole survivor disaster is a plane crash that killed her mother. On the plane she sees all the objects her therapist used to prove that she has confirmation bias about being in the game still at the start of the movie. She recalls her therapist asking her what it would take for her to believe that she isn’t in the game anymore. Unfortunately, her answer is that the corporation is held accountable, and the game is stopped. Uh oh, that is what just took place over the last hour or so of the movie. The plane is in control of the corporation, they are still in the game, and the corporation is like ha-ha we got you. Um, what the heck?!

At the end of the first movie we saw Minos testing an airplane escape room scenario, presuming this is that escape room. It still begs the question how they got all of these pieces into place seamlessly without Zoey being tipped off until it’s too late. Zoey is an observant, intelligent, and rightfully paranoid person. With this in mind it’s hard to believe she wouldn’t have noticed a single thing amiss until she’s well into the flight.

Are they powerful enough to have a commercial flight? Are all the passengers fake or just unsuspecting participants to this new game? I assume they went through TSA at an airport, did the corporation fake that? What if they had decided to stay in New York and see the sights? I had more questions than answers. How much money is worth it to put all of this together to have Zoe build a new game? Whoever is building Zoe’s game seems to be doing just fine and I’m not sure why they need a new hire.

The rooms are fun to watch, especially the contestants working together to solve the puzzles. I liked the backstories and how the lore of this world is built around evil Minos folks. What I do not like is that it’s supposed to be in the real world, and I must suspend all belief of logic and reality to understand the plot's endpoint.

Granted the rooms themselves defy most reality and ability especially the sand town and the frozen forest from the first film. I can sort of wrap my head around that, however. An airport, replica of New York City (subway included), cross country road trip, and countless actors to fill these spaces and participate without this secret getting out is just too far. If you can suspend belief without getting angry then I would recommend checking this movie out.

Recommended score: 6/10