Escape: Filipino Film about Tyranny of Marcos Regime


Reportedly the first serious Filipino film to critically examine the tyranny of the Marcos regime, Escape is a reasonably entertaining action-adventure with two popular male stars in its cast. Though commercial prospects for this kind of fare are rather meager in the U.S., Chito Rono’s picture should travel the film festival road and should also be included in retrospectives devoted to the newly emergent Filipino cinema.

Set in l972 and based on a true story, the script was co-written by Roy C. Iglesias and Jose F. Lacaba, who collaborated with the late Lino Brocka on his films. Yarn begins with the sudden arrest of two men, Geny Lopez (Christopher De Leon) and Serge Osmena (Richard Gomez), charged with conspiracy to assassinate Marcos. The duo, who have never met before, are held suspect as their fathers are out of the country.

Though members of the same privileged elite, the two men could not have been more different in their outlook and personality. An successful businessman, Geny is efficient, rational and a bit conservative. In contrast, Serge is more spontaneous, amiable and emotional. However, once arrested and thrown into jail, they are subjected to the same physical and mental torture, which of course unites them. But even after their parents sacrifice their wealth to obtain their freedom, the two are kept in prison. When an hunger strike doesn’t yield results, their only chance to get free is to orchestrate an ingenious escape.

The film captures effectively the atmosphere of fear and brutality that began with the l972 court martial. Costa-Gavras’ political thrillers seem to be the model for these early, quite terrifying scenes. However, once preparation for the breakout and its execution begin, the adventure assumes a more routine, familiar structure, which undercuts some of the genuine suspense. Still, Escape is satisfying both as a genre item and as a harrowing exploration of the peculiar evils of the Marcos era.