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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

'Escape at Dannemora' DVD: Ben Stiller Directed Real-Life Prison Break

The CBS Home Entertainment April 16, 2019 DVD release of the seven-episode Showtime limited-series "Escape at Dannemora" can be considered the real-life equivalent of the Fox drama "Prison Break." The release coming a week after the CBS (reviewed) release of the sixth season of the "Sopranos" like drama "Ray Donovan" indicates the talent of the Showtime suits for knowing a good dramatic story when they see it. 

This joint by executive producer/director Ben Stiller chronicles every stage of convicted murderers Richard Matt (Benicio Del Toro) and David Sweat (Paul Dano) going from stir crazy to busting loose from the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in the titular upstate New York town.

An intriguing aspect of "Dannemora" is the prominent role of prison employee Joyce "Tilly" Mitchell in the 2015 break. Patricia Arquette goes from a medium to a large to play this simple-minded Canadian, who pays a heavy price "to get a nut." The superb job of Arquette scores her a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and a Critics' Choice Award.

The following clip of "Dannemora" trailer highlights the talent of Arquette and the chops of her company. It also provides a taste of the extensive soundtrack that indicates that Stiller has good taste in music. 

Our story fully gets underway in the aftermath of Matt and Sweat making a run for the northern border. NY Inspector General Catherine Scott (Bonnie Hunt) is grilling Mitchell, who now is a guest of the state, about her role in the event. Much of the entertainment relates to clearly seeing both that Mitchell is her own worst enemy and that she is not the mastermind of the plot. 

We then flashback to Mitchell working as the supervisor of the prison tailor shop; Sweat is her shop foreman/not-so-secret lover. Clearly equally dim-witted second husband/fellow employee Lyle Mitchell stands by his woman despite multiple credible reports of her frequent working-hours coitus with Sweat in a side room of the shop.

Sweat losing his sweet job and experiencing the prison equivalent of downsizing regarding his housing sets things in motion. Matt COMPLETELY fills the void in the shop and puts the escape plan in motion. The manner in which he does both shows who';s the boss. 

The plot thickens as Matt seduces Mitchell into initially inadvertently and subsequently knowingly aiding and abetting the great escape. This begins with tricking her into providing a necessary tool and escalates to recruiting her to he a full-fledged moll. Much of the entertainment of this is watching Del Toro expertly playing a master manipulator. His persuasion includes painting an image of a paradise in which Mitchell has both Matt and Sweat essentially as her love slaves.

The next portion of "Dannemora" involves Sweat aptly contributing sweat equity to the venture. Matt is doing his part by ensuring that Mitchell is remaining with the program by filling her head with images of her prisoners of love making her life a paradise on earth.

One of the final episodes is a flashback that shows how our members of the devil's love triangle come to be in their current states of literal or figurative incarceration. We witness the crimes for which Matt and Sweat are doing the time and see how history is repeating itself in the case of Mitchell. 

This leads to the lukewarm pursuit of the boys as their not-so-Bonnie accomplice deals with being left behind and with facing contending with the possible consequences of her actions. Suffice it to say that being a band on the run takes individual and group tolls on our fugitives.

Stiller nicely wraps things up by depicting the results of the manhunt and providing the standard "where are they now" updates at the end of the final episode. Putting very human faces on these members of "America's Most Wanted" adds an interesting perspective and makes the audience both wanting to learn more and to to see an "after Dannemora" series.

CBS bats .500 regarding the desire for more. A DVD extra is a combination "making of" and real-story special feature. We get footage related to the source material and see interviews with some of the real life cops and cons whom Stiller hires to ensures that his story is authentic. A particularly amusing story by a former Clinton guard is finding himself filming scenes with ex-cons whom he guarded back in the day. A "bygones" attitude by everyone helps maintain the peace. 

The other feature is more like a page out of the Fox "Break." This extend anatomy of a scene shows all of the work and the multiple locations associated with the epic scene of the extended escape route. One spoiler is that this does not rise to the level of foulness in the "Shawshank" escape. 

The bottom line is there is something about the Focker that makes "Dannemora" that easily passes the "one more" test of this movie that shows the extent to which reality bites for our central trio.​

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