Two words on this one: Patricia Arquette. It’s her version of Charlize Theron’s transformation in Monster.
Escape At Dannemora, nominated as Best Limited Series at this year’s Golden Globes, is now available to binge on Showmax.
The seven-part series is based on a stranger-than-fiction prison break in upstate New York in the summer of 2015, which spawned a state-wide manhunt for two convicted murderers, aided in their escape by a female prison employee who carried on months-long affairs with both men – despite being married to another prison employee.
Here are four reasons to add this dark prison break drama to your watchlist immediately:
1 – Patricia Arquette in a Golden Globe-winning role as Tilly Mitchell
Patricia Arquette won the 2019 Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild award, and the Critics’ Choice prize for her lead performance as Tilly Mitchell, a working class wife and mother who supervises the prison tailor shop and becomes sexually involved with both men, ultimately agreeing to hide hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to help them get out. Despite being one of the most famous actors of her generation, with an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Boyhood and an Emmy for Medium, Arquette is almost unrecognisable in Escape From Dannemora – it’s arguably an even more dramatic physical transformation than Charlize Theron in Monster…
2 – Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano as her prison lovers
Oscar and Golden Globe winner Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, Sicario) plays convicted murderer Richard Matt, an artistic yet intimidating force within the prison, who masterminds the escape. As Newsday put it, “Del Toro once again establishes why he’s one of the great actors of his generation.”
Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee Paul Dano plays David Sweat, a convicted cop-killer who may have genuine feelings for Tilly and becomes a reluctant partner in Richard’s plot. The Sopranos, Little Miss Sunshine and 12 Years A Slave star is perfectly cast: as The Washington Post puts it, he “excels at playing meek-mannered creeps” and “brings a steady and almost feral quality to the role, succumbing to Tilly’s twisted mix of mothering role play.”
3 – Ben Stiller’s true calling may be as a director, not an actor
Ben Stiller won the Directors Guild of America Award for Escape at Dannemora, recognition from his peers that his true calling may be as a director, not an actor. No surprises there for anyone who saw his under-rated The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
As USA Today put it, “It may be hard for some viewers to reckon the star of Zoolander 2 with the excruciatingly raw and harrowing direction of Dannemora, but… Stiller shows himself more than able to direct drama, thrills and action in a series that relies on all three.”
Stiller’s experience in front of the camera has made him a favourite with his cast. As Arquette said when collecting her Golden Globe, “I love Ben Stiller… He’s a dream come true for actors.”
4 – Critics love it
The Los Angeles Times picked Escape at Dannemora as their best show of 2018, while the series has an 89% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 8/10 on IMDB.
The Washington Post praised it as “magnificently disturbing… a master work of true-crime dramatization, remarkable in that it feels true in a way that transcends the record of what happened.”
And USA Today hailed it as “the best possible version of a stranger-than-fiction truth told fictionally. The right director at the right time with the right actors and the right story can turn the salacious into the superb. It’s a feat almost as rare and as difficult as breaking out of prison.”
But wait, there’s more…
You shouldn’t need more reasons than that, but we could go on to mention that Escape at Dannemora also stars Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Bonnie Hunt and Emmy nominee David Morse, who were both in another prison classic, The Green Mile, and is written and executive produced by Writers Guild of America winner Brett Johnson (Mad Men) and Oscar nominee Michael Tolkin (The Player), who met while working as writers on another of our favourites, Ray Donovan.