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- Asshole Victim: John decides to shoot up a meth lab for the money.
- Awesome By Analysis: When you realize how much planning a mere teacher put into his wife's escape, including timing how long it'd take for their pictures to get to bus stations and air ports and leaving a garbage bag of map scraps with misleading photos.
- Driven to Suicide: Banks, when her character learns no one believes her story about bumping into the murderous junkie and she's never leaving prison and again when she gets overwhelmed by the great escape.
- Dynamic Character: In the beginning we see John as a mild-mannered and caring professor and family man. As the movie goes on he becomes a steely-eyed strategist, accumulating all the skills and the cold mentality to pull off a jailbreak.
Damon Pennington: But before you do anything, you have to ask yourself if you can do it. Can you forget about ever seeing your parents again? Can you kill a guard? Leave your kid at a gas station? Push some nice old lady to the ground just because she gets between you and the door? Because to do this thing, that's who you have to become.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Elizabeth Banks goes from sleek platinum blonde to rusty, wavy brown after three years in prison.
- Foreign Remake: The movie is a remake of the 2008 French film Pour Elle.
- Great Escape: The whole point of the movie.
- One-Scene Wonder: Liam Neeson as writer Damon Pennington.
- Romantic False Lead: Nicole looks like a potential love interest for John, but it doesn't amount to anything.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When John almost gets caught with the "bump key" and is spotted by the investigator.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the junkie?
- Write What You Know: Paul Haggis said the parts where John looks up prison break info on the internet was inspired by his own web searches when he decided to leave the Church of Happyology (you know what I mean); it also seemed to have informed his casting of fellow ex-"Happyologist" Jason Beghe.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: A good chunk of John's plan didn't really go as well as he would have expected, but he managed to pull it off by improvising.