I have been on a bit of a Clint Eastwood kick (again!) recently, and decided to return to Escape From Alcatraz, even though I saw it less than two years ago.
Although this is first and foremost a Clint Eastwood movie, and he pretty much carries the whole film, there is some pretty solid direction from frequent Eastwood contributor Don Siegel, in his last film with Eastwood. In a jail break movie, there is pretty much only one direction the plot can take—the guys try to escape from jail and they either make it or they don’t. But Siegel is able to inject a good deal of tension into this basic formula, while also conveying a sense of claustrophobia and confinement in the jail. The most interesting point of the true case of Frank Morris and the Anglin Brothers is that even today it is not known if they were successful or not, and the film does a good job of ending with leaving this point ambiguous. Eastwood is also successful in making the harden criminal he plays sympathetic.
The idea that the Shawshank Redemption is a shameless rip-off of this film is so obvious that it hardly seems worth mentioning, but this by far the better film.