Exit (2011) — Can you escape the maze?

“I need to get inside. It’s hard to explain.”

Justin’s rating: If it was only so easy as taking the red pill

Justin’s review: In 1998’s amazing Dark City, our amnesiac lead character continually searches for a way out of the shapeshifting metropolis. What lies beyond it was a mystery, but the compulsion to get out and find the truth was overwhelming.

It’s this same sense that I got from the understated Australian indie flick Exit. Born of liminal spaces that the internet loves to be creeped out by, this movie takes the sprawling setting of a metropolis and makes it into a prison.

Various characters wander the seemingly neverending streets of this unnamed city, looking for something. A door. A lock. An exit. They don’t know what’s outside of this place — or if there’s even an end to the concrete jungle and steel skyscrapers. But by gum, they’re going to try.

Surrounded by people who don’t know or acknowledge that they live, eat, and breathe in a gigantic maze, our heroes perform experiments, look for clues, and test everything in an effort to find a way out. One creates a gigantic 3-D model of explored streets in his apartment. Another is obsessed with a door that’s latched with an unusual lock. And a rich man is locking up empty buildings that are dead ends.

Exit is drenched in visuals and symbolism the type that make any college film critic wet their pants over. The melancholic synth soundtrack, the cold visuals, and the detail-oriented cinematography makes this a movie that could be an allegory for a whole lot of things beyond a mere scifi adventure. But my getting excited over symbolism days are long past me, my friends, and all I care about is if the journey itself is interesting.

So is it? Yes and no. This is a very slow burn of a movie where long, meandering scenes play out to increase the atmosphere. Sometimes I had the overwhelming feeling to get behind this film to push it forward into snappier plot development and beats. I had a very real concern that the director would become too distracted with his clever camera shots and symbolic moments to actually resolve any of the story.

Sometimes you end up liking the idea of a movie and elements from it rather than the whole, and that’s the case with me and Exit. I absolutely loved the ambiguous challenge of finding an escape from a maze that may or may not actually exist. And while some of the shots are very well done, the characters aren’t that interesting nor is their plight that urgent. If they don’t find the exit, so what? It’s not the end of the world.

A punchier version of this movie with higher stakes would be something I’d show up for without hesitation. But this movie is a little too in love with itself at a cost of inviting boredom into its realm.

Didja notice?

  • That’s a wild lock on that door
  • Ack, she’s talking to the camera! Fourth wall! Fourth wall!
  • The city model
  • “Why does the maze turn them all into scurrying rats?”

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