Movie Review

Escape from Alcatraz

The Escape from Alcatraz movie starring Clint Eastwood is based on a series of nail-biting real-life events as three men bust out of a maximum-security prison.  The movie shows how prisoners have endless amounts of time to study everything that goes on inside and outside of the penitentiary.  Frank Morris, (Played by Clint Eastwood) who is the mastermind behind the attack, befriends the Anglin Brothers (Played by Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau) to help him bust out of the penitentiary.  This film has you reaching for your popcorn as any wrong move made by the men could put their escape attempt in jeopardy.  Clarence and John Anglin are familiar with Frank Morris as they have served time together in other prisons before getting moved to Alcatraz.  There is not much prior history discussed about the characters except that they have attempted escapes before at other prisons.  The men in Escape from Alcatraz were sent to the island because no one has ever escaped from the maximum-security prison prior to their arrival.

Patrick McGoohan (The Warden of Alcatraz) tells Frank Morris the rules and regulations of the prison.  The Warden also says that Frank must obey them, or he may get sent to the segregation cells. Some rules of the prison include limited visits, no reading material, and no fighting with other inmates.  There is an inaccuracy in the movie in that Frank Morris later distributes various reading material to people in D block of the penitentiary upon request.  Also, Frank is seen going into the prison library where in real life one did not exist inside of the prison.  Throughout the thrilling movie, there are a few inaccuracies to what took place in real life.  According to, “In the opening scene that shows San Francisco scenery there is a shot of a large TV tower called Sutro Tower. The film takes place in 1960 and Sutro Tower wasn’t built until 1973.” The Sutro Tower was not in existence during the real Escape from Alcatraz.

Technology during the movie was not used from the time period that the real Escape from Alcatraz occurred.  The movie is supposed to take place in 1960 when the real-life event happened, but the oscilloscope on the metal detector outside the wood shop is a new 1979 model, the year the movie was made.

Doc (another inmate housed inside Alcatraz) is unhappy because the Warden took his painting privileges away for no apparent reason.  Painting was the only thing that made Doc happy inside of prison, and the Warden caused him to be very angry.  Doc has so much anger that one day in the wood shop he chops off his fingers with an ax.  When Doc chops his fingers off in the movie, a brief close-up of the severed hand and fingers reveal that they are clearly made of prosthetics because there are no real fingernails on the rubber parts.

As in most movies, there are historical inaccuracies that the director puts into certain scenes to emphasis a main point.  These changes alter how the movie could be portrayed by the viewer.  These changes are usually made to keep the viewer on edge of what is going to occur next in the film.  During the Escape from Alcatraz, Dan Siegel does an outstanding job of keeping important events authentic while only making minor changes throughout the film.  For example, regular skyscrapers that look the same are placed throughout the San Francisco area, but some were not even built during the time period of the real Escape from Alcatraz.   

The rigorous prison life was minutely observed, and many details are provided about the characters’ actions which makes the viewer want to watch more of the movie.  However, the film ends with a big cliffhanger in that no one has seen or heard from the men since the night of the escape.  The complexity of the escape itself from a maximum-security prison makes up for the ending because there was a lot of calculated thinking put into the escape.  The director lets the viewer decide if the escape was considered “successful.”  Today, the men would be over ninety years old and it is unknown even if they survived the bone chilling waters of the San Francisco Bay. 

Frank Lee Morris, John William Anglin, and Clarence Anglin will go down in history as making one of the most difficult escapes from a prison in the United States of America.  It is a shame that they did not use their knowledge towards things that did not involve criminal activity.  There is a lot of debate as to whether they fully escaped.  Some think just leaving the grounds of the prison is an escape while others believe that an escape means that they are living somewhere in the world and have not been caught.  Regardless, these men should receive praise for doing something that no one else was able to do.  It was very bold, and the men needed everything for them to work out in order to accomplish the escape.  Hopefully, one day someone will be able to identify where the remains of the men are or if they are still alive.  Fascinating!

Robert F. Costello, III is the executive editor of Tri-Lite which is Holy Family University’s student run newspaper.  He is in his third year at HFU and is studying Secondary Education-English.  Robert loves to take trips to the beach during the summer and to watch Phillies games with friends and family.  His favorite kind of writing is persuasive because it gets the reader to think about both sides of an argument.