This was the movie that really made me a fan of the Anti-Hero formula. What started off as an idea inspired by the Death Wish film, cynicism from Nixon’s Watergate scandal and a trip in Manhattan, Director John Carpenter has created one of the best dystopian films in both cinema and pop culture!
What’s it all about?
In what’s referred as “John Carpenter’s Escape from New York” it’s 1997 and the crime rate within the United States has risen to an overwhelming percentage. During a flight to an International “bargaining” summit, the Air Force One plane makes an unexpected detour thanks to an extremist. The plane’s most valuable passenger, President John Harker suddenly finds himself captured and used as a bargaining tool by the inhabitants of what was once New York City!
Enter ex Special Force vet, now outlaw, SD “Snake” Plissken who is coerced into rescuing the President of the United States via entering the city of Manhattan-now the largest correction facility ever. And unless he completes his mission within 24 hours, its “No more Hartford Summit, no Snake Plissken”!
What can I say about EFNY other than it being a highly ambitious project. It’s one of the first high concept films of the eighties that laid the foundation for the resurgence of the post-apocalyptic protagonist. Snake is larger than life because he’s devoid of compassion, doesn’t always play by the rules, yet, there’s a significant code of honor character tope, that was one of the many highlights of the narrative. “Escape” may come off as a slow burn to some, but that shouldn’t be the case since there is so much to soak in when it comes to Plissken’s world. Whether It’s the daring glider entrance, Snake being chased by a bunch of madmen called “Crazies”, a failed attempt at retrieving the penal colonists’ bargaining chip, Snake in a gladiatorial combat arena, the high speed chase atop of the 69th street bridge loaded with landmines leading to a pulse pounding standoff against the charismatic Duke of New York-all, while the clock is ticking!
Kurt Russell does an impeccable job as Plissken while channeling Clint Eastwood’s “Man with no name” character from those classic spaghetti Westerns and this was Russell’s idea when performing alongside Lee Van Cleef (Also from the Eastwood/Leone Westerns) also of note, is how Kurt shopped around various clothing boutiques to piecemeal what is Snake’s iconic uniform which is outdoes the other action hero wardrobes: Rambo, Commando, Terminator, Die Hard ,etc. So, in all practicality, Snake was for the most part, Kurt’s baby!
Aside from practical effects i.e. models and matte paintings courtesy of soon to be legend-James Cameron, the other “special effect”, goes to the incredible soundtrack by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Its ominous, exciting and unprecedented.
John Carpenter’s Escape from New York is an unprecedented film like no other. Produced on what is deemed a shoestring budget, Escape is a very ambitious project detailing a nightmarish world environment cast aside from civilization!
That being said, Escape from New York is a trip worth taking!
Okay, we get it Stalks, you love this movie, you really love it! So how does it relate to what’s going on today?
There’s really not that much foreshadowing other than:
A “Racist Police State”
During the Air Force One hijacking scene, there’s an Anarchist delivering her manifesto to the United States Police Force-proclaiming that America, the land of the free, is now a racist police state.
Let’s fast forward oh, about 3 decades later as we are witnessing an exponential number of police officer shootings of unarmed Black Men.
As cameras and testimonies have proven that the murders of Eric Gardner, Phillpe Castillo, etc was not only unjustified, but the officers involved , were found not guilty via jury of their own “peers”.
To further drive such comparisons, President Trump has approved a mandate that will allow police officers to carry military grade small arms.
There’s a very cryptic comparison between the hijack scene and what had occurred during the September 11 attacks.
In the movie, the radical extremist commandeers Air Force One and crash lands in a derelict building. Like the Al Queda terrorists crashing the plane directly into the World Trade Center. A sad reminder of how life can imitate art.
Other than that, the crime rate within the United States, hasn’t skyrocketed as some futurists may forecast however, a huge containment wall is in the stages of being constructed. Just that, we will be the ones imprisoned from the rest of the world! Hahah!