A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
It's a little unexpected to find Charles Bronson starring in a Ramparts magazine cover story, but here he is in "Breakout," a thriller inspired by the 1971 springing of Joel David Kaplan from a Mexican prison. Kaplan was the scion of an American sugar-and-molasses empire with Latin American connections, and in the early 1960s, he was a courier for Fidel Castro.
The Mexicans imprisoned him in 1962 on a highly questionable murder charge, and there were rumors that the CIA was somehow involved. He was in prison nine years before his sister hired a California helicopter pilot to carry out a neat little mission spiriting Kaplan out of the prison yard. Ramparts published material about the CIA connection, but Kaplan wouldn't talk, then or later.
The movie's naturally more concerned with the rescue mission than with any shadowy political implications. But there are a couple of leftovers from the original story in the sinister persons of a CIA operative and the hero's rich grandfather. They seem to be in cahoots, although how or why is a little unclear. No matter; things get considerably clearer and more direct when we meet Bronson, who plays a swashbuckling charter pilot. He's hired by the prisoner's wife (Jill Ireland) to fly into Mexico on a rescue mission - but not until soldiers start firing at him does he figure out his would-be passenger is a convict.
Before Bronson came on the scene, the prisoner (Robert Duvall) already had made one spectacularly unsuccessful jailbreak attempt: He bribed guards to smuggle him out in a coffin containing a corpse, and, after nailing him in, they proceeded with great hilarity to bury him. Since we never see him being dug up or let in on the joke or anything, it's a little startling to find him back in the prison two scenes later. But then, the movie would have been over otherwise, which is a poor excuse for such a lapse in exposition, but better than none.