No Escape – Film Review by Frances Winston
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Stars: Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson has made so many fluffy films in the past few years that it’s easy to forget that he can actually be a really fine actor when he wants to be. Here, without the benefit of cheesy gags or a stereotypical rom com storyline he actually gets to stretch his acting muscles somewhat. He plays Jack, an engineer who has uprooted his family from Texas to a country in Asia having accepted a job with a water company. Within hours of landing however the president is shot and the country is a war zone as the rebels run riot.
Annoyed at big corporations coming in and stealing their resources they start systematically killing all foreigners and Jack and his family, wife Annie (Bell) and two children are forced to try and find a way out of the city. With danger literally lurking on every corner they find help in the form of Hammond (Brosnan) a rough and ready man of the world whom they befriended on their flight. However with pretty much the entire region out to kill them getting out of the country and over the border won’t be as easy as it sounds.
End of summer films are generally slow burners but this is actually a pretty decent offering that could hold its own against some of the multi-million dollar blockbusters that have been released recently. What gives this the edge over the standard bad guys chasing good guys’ type drama is the fact that there is a family unit at the heart of the story. Rather than being completely gung ho, Jack and Annie have to consider their young children at every turn. This leads to some really moving moment as they try to protect them from the horror of what is happening yet instill the urgency to get away in them. Wilson and Bell do a great job as the frantic couple who only wanted to make a better life for their family and pretty much carry the whole film. Jerins and Geare are wonderful as their daughters and their performances belie their tender years. Brosnan does drag this down a bit with his quirky hard man. The unfortunate reality is that at this stage Pierce Brosnan really can’t play anything other than Pierce Brosan and be taken seriously. That is fine but it does make it hard to watch his scenes here where he has clearly made a conscious effort to shake off his suave image. He is also responsible for one of the most turgid scenes in the flick when he pontificates about how “guys like him” caused the rebellion and gives us all a lesson in morality and Western greed!
On another slightly negative note the bad guys are one dimensional stereotypes but this is typical of these films whether the bad guys are cold war era Soviets, closer to home gangsters or, as in this case, a group of rebellious Asians. Seemingly some people were offended by this but I personally don’t think it should be taken as a literal reflection of an entire race.
That aside this is a thrilling, suspenseful piece of work that will have you on the edge of your seat. The frenetic cinematography only adds to the tension and gives a sense of claustrophobia and the pacing is perfect. The cheesy dialogue that often peppers these kinds of movies is sparse and just enough time is spent developing the characters before we are thrust in to the action and then it doesn’t let up. At a time when we are bombarded with horrific images of Syrian refuges trying to escape their country this also strikes a chord on a whole different level than it originally intended to. Engaging, entertaining, gripping and nail-biting this deserves to do very well.