The only options are winning or dying.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel and Carlito Olivero
Directed by Adam Robitel
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the sequel to the box office hit psychological thriller that terrified audiences around the world. In this instalment, six people unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive…and discovering they've all played the game before.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
IN CINEMAS JULY 1, 2021
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
In 2019, movie audiences lined up to lock themselves into a room that they couldn't leave, with certain danger looming… but this danger was coming from inside the room. The worldwide popularity of escape rooms – which pit players' creative problem solving and puzzling skills against a ticking clock and a locked door – whetted the appetite for Columbia Pictures' Escape Room, which became a global hit.
Now, as Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) – the two survivors of the Minos Corporation's twisted game – begin a quest to expose the company for their murders and evil, they will find themselves lured back for more deadly fun in Escape Room: Tournament of Champions… where will be joined by other survivors.
And with Minos bringing together a group of players who had already survived their challenges, it would be up to the filmmakers create exciting and tricky new problems for the characters. "The idea of "Tournament of Champions" inherently raises the stakes," says producer Neal H. Moritz. "All of our characters have not only played before, but won, so they're experts at solving puzzles and spotting clues. We had to create rooms that would believably surprise and challenge them, but I think the most exciting idea we introduce is that the game isn't confined to conventional rooms – it can take place anywhere."
After surviving the events of the first movie, Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) return, determined to uncover what is behind the Minos evil. "When Zoey goes to New York, she's putting herself into the lions' den," says Robitel. "She is obsessed with solving this puzzle and getting behind who Minos is.
For Russell, the new film reflected the changes in character that followed the events of the first film. When Escape Room opened, Zoey was obviously intelligent, but meek and unsure of herself. Surviving Minos's murder rooms will change a person – and she saw those changes in the script for Tournament of Champions. "What jumped out of the page for me was that it felt like the stakes were much higher," recalls Russell. "In the first movie, we didn't know what we were walking into, but this time Zoey is willingly going in, with a purpose. It feels like there's a lot more intensity, ambition, and fight in her. She's come out of her shell and really wants to make some changes."
"The last film forced both Zoey and Ben to confront their past trauma," says Moritz. "Zoey's arc in particular was all about breaking out of her comfort zone, so at the beginning of the sequel, she's in a much more proactive place of wanting to take down the bad guys and conquer her fears."
But if changes are going to come, it's not going to be easy. "Minos definitely has some tricks up their sleeve," says Russell. "They clearly know she's coming for them, and they've cooked up some incredibly diabolical rooms."
"All of the rooms are very intense," Russell continues, "but I would say the highest stakes for are emotional as she tries to solve the puzzles in a different way. She never forgets that you can't win if you play Minos's game. The only way to get out alive is not to play on their terms."
Like Zoey, Ben has shown remarkable improvements since the events of the first film. "Ben starts the first movie in a real downward spiral, and by the end there's a spark in him to fight again; there's something for him to live for now," says Robitel. "It's great to see Ben's growth since the first movie – he's cleaned up a bit, he's trying to get his life back together, and he has a friendship with Zoey. I think it's quite remarkable how dutiful Ben is in this journey with Zoey; he's clearly carrying a torch for Zoey, but it's not clear if Zoey is on board with that or if they're just friends."
Returning to play the part is Logan Miller. "Logan has it all," says Robitel. "He's a strong leading man, but he's also great with humor, action, and improvisational moments."
"The physical challenges of this film are very rigorous. The energy has to be at level 10 almost constantly," says Miller. "The challenge is to keep your sense of calm while also performing this chaos. It creates quite the tension with the mind, sometimes."
"All the new characters are bringing a new dynamic to the franchise," Miller says. "Like Zoey and Ben, they've dealt with escape rooms before, and so we're taking our experiences and their experiences and we're trying to work together. We are a puzzle while we're dealing with the puzzle."
Fitting for the Tournament of Champions, the filmmakers designed the characters to be on Zoey and Ben's level. "We couldn't put them in with a bunch of newbies," says Rahardja.
"We wanted different personalities who bring something unique to the table – contestants who are hip, fun, and well rounded," says Robitel. The new characters include Nathan, a priest haunted by survivor's guilt. When Minos tested whether faith would help clergy contestants survive, Nathan was the only one who managed to escape. "His faith has been shaken, and that makes him desperate," says Robitel. "That's going to get him and others in trouble throughout the film."
"He's struggled with remorse ever since his first escape room," says Thomas Cocquerel, who plays the role. "There's a big internal dialogue that he's battling with in this film. He has a complex journey – he has a strong internal dialogue that he expresses externally in a direct communication with God. It's unusual that you get to play that, but it's a joy."
Cocquerel might not be what audiences usually think of when they think "priest." (In a word, he's hot.) But that's by design. "We've seen a lot of salty older priests – we thought it better to cast against that with a leading man type. Thomas crushes it," says Robitel. "
Cocquerel was attracted to join the project by being a fan of the first film. "I'm not good at watching scary movies, but I loved the first one," he says. "The thing that separates this franchise is there's an intellectual angle to it; as you watch, you try to solve these puzzles at the same time as the characters do. It's like a detective movie – the fun is in trying to solve riddles before the characters."
Holland Roden's character, Rachel, had a unique ability that made her genetically more likely to survive Minos's ministrations – she has a medical condition that makes her unable to feel physical pain. "Holland made it really interesting," says Robitel. "The rooms seem like they're most effective when they're creating physical pain. But Holland and I talked about physical pain versus mental pain – there are things she can't unsee and experiences she can't unlive. That's an interesting obstacle for her character."
Rahardja says, "Zoey is who everyone wants to be in the escape room game; like ahead of the curve, really smart, and solving a lot of the problems, and Rachel is a really interesting counter point to that; she's very grounded and instead of looking for a way to break the game and get out, she's just looking for a way through. I think that's been a fascinating emotional journey for Rachel, whose arc is about learning how to feel emotion since she can't feel physical sensation."
"She can't feel pain and she has all of these piercings to prove it," says Roden. "She's also on the sarcastic side of things – she's unrefined in the way she looks, talks, and moves."
Roden was drawn to the film by the chance to build on the first one. "It was so scary, but grounded at the same time," she says. "It felt like an escape room that you might just wander into – there's something really accessible about it. This film reveals that Minos is much bigger than we thought, and reveals it through a tournament of champions. I loved that."
Indya Moore plays the role of Brianna, a social media influencer – but that doesn't mean Brianna is a stereotype. "Because she's a travel blogger, she isn't just a pretty face but is out exploring world adventures," says Rahardja. "Indya comes in with so much presence and attitude – in her hands, she's a fun and aspirational character."
"Brianna is a traveler," Moore explains. "She loves to explore the world and she is very assertive – she knows what she wants, she knows who she is, and she doesn't feel the need to be pleased or appeased by anyone. She's been able to turn that into a career by having someone pay her for her posts. She's developed survival skills by embarking on these journeys – but she's really passionate about living and not just surviving."
Robitel adds, "She embodies the idea of a world traveler with a haunted backstory," says Robitel. "While Zoey and Ben are running toward Minos – trying to bring them down – Brianna is running away. She just happens to come back to New York City for this one day, and gets pulled back into the game. Indya's a New Yorker and she brought a lot of fun and a lot of gravitas to the role."
Moore enjoyed the experience of working with Robitel. "He brings an intensity that's infectious," says Moore. "You have to believe that these rooms could kill you. Adam channels that intensity through us, the actors – he did an incredible job of making sure we brought that every day."
Carlito Olivero rounds out the group of players as Theo, a young Puerto Rican New Yorker. The actor says he's a real-life escape room addict. "I've probably done about thirteen of them in the past year," he says. "This is what I do. But I suck at them in real life."
"Theo can be very quiet, but when something ticks him off, he just loses it. Everybody in the movie has a history with Minos, but Theo truly hates them and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, or to break things. It's a very alpha male response," Olivero continues.
Robitel says that Olivero's big personality is infectious. "He's the loudest guy on the train, and the audience falls in love with him," he says. "He reacts in the way that I think most of us would react – banding on windows and kicking seats, sheer desperation. The thing is, Carlito is very strong – he shattered a shatterproof glass."
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
IN CINEMAS JULY 1, 2021