Synopsis – In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape in an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.
My Take – As a fan of Owen Wilson‘s humorous roles, how could I miss his dramatic turn in a thriller (judging from the trailers) seemed too intense for a guy like me to handle right after work. Well guess what I was right! But not in the bad way, of course. The movie pushed my limits for intensity, and I’m a none-too-squeamish kind of guy. I certainly didn’t have high hopes for this one going in. The trailers certainly didn’t give us much even though the cast is kinda exciting either. Well, Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan aren’t exactly box-office draws anymore. And I’ve never really been a fan of Lake Bell-no fault of her own, just certain things about her annoy me. Anyway, the whole theater audience, myself included, was pleasantly surprised by what we experienced. Director John Erick Dowdle‘s filmography is primarily made up of tight-budgeted but mildly successful yet entertaining horror films (Quarantine, Devil, As Above So Below), hence it was interesting to see him apply some of the horror film techniques to a real situation film. “Real” in the sense that it could happen. This movies holds onto you and doesn’t let go. When there is a breath of fresh air, you as the viewer best take it, because it’ll get right back into the thick of it. I wonder how well this movie will do financially with the little (to none) marketing that’s going into it. It’s a bit intense, and the squeamish had every right to stand up and leave. Not many did, but I don’t blame them. There were a few instances where it grew a bit too much for me. Summer movies are all about fun and entertainment but this movie provided a very different experience and I’m glad I saw it. Words of caution, this movie is very violent so bringing kids along might not be a good idea. Did I mention the movie preyed upon one of my greatest fears – traveling to third world countries where you don’t speak the native language, a place where English may not even be in the top 5 languages spoken there, can you imagine the daunting experience? Couple that with a political turmoil and it becomes a nightmare.
The story follows Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), an engineer who is moving to an unnamed SE Asian country (most likely Thailand) for work with his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare). On the flight, he befriends Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). While staying at a hotel, he notices some things not quite right. The internet connection and the telephones in the hotel are not working. Little does he know, the prime minister of the country is killed in a coup and now the rebels are killing every foreign national . Jack is outside looking for a newspaper when he is caught in a mob violence against the police. When he finds out the motives of the rebels, he has to go back and protect his family. The movie then follows his struggle to keep himself and his family alive and find a way out of the country. One of the family’s earliest escape sequences involves leaping from one rooftop to another, and all I could think of was how fortunate that this was not a typical middle class family who, shall we say, struggles with the effects of a fast food diet. In addition to the long jump, Owen Wilson takes over the record for best on screen child toss an under-appreciated cinematic category (LOL). The elements I believe worked in favor of this movie was the human story the filmmakers built in the beginning. There was a rapport with the family, and as things started to heat up, I genuinely cared about what happened to the family. I was hoping for a happy ending, but with the film’s gritty nature, I honestly didn’t know how the third act would unfold. The violence is brutal and real-looking, without being overly gory or disgusting-which means you don’t look away, you don’t close your eyes. And that’s the scariest part of the film-these aren’t people being hunted by a scary creature or trying to escape some natural disaster. They are being hunted by fellow human beings- who in their own minds are just trying to protect their own families and interests (though attacking and killing is not the right way to accomplish that goal). The film gives us great images especially it’s roof scenes and you feel the culture shock. With a rape scene and some pretty intense action scenes, its hard not to squeal. Apparently whoever cut the trailer understood this as we only see events that take place at the hotel in the trailer, and that’s just a fraction of the movie. The Dowdle brothers and their team can be proud of what they’ve made here. The writers do deserve credit for understanding that Owen and his little family were probably insufficient to hold our attention for the full run, so they threw in a bizarre super agent played by Pierce Brosnan. There do seem to be some conflicting story lines. On one hand the big Western corporation is cast as the villain who cares only to capitalize on the local citizens, yet on the other hand, we as viewers are supposed to root for the cute white family as they run from the rebels. Perhaps this is over-thinking, something the filmmakers won’t be accused of.
While the movie is going on, you frequently are questioning “What would I do in this situation?”. Jack is constantly trying to keep “10 steps ahead” as he puts it. I would have liked to see more of the reason behind the turmoil (it is explained very briefly) and then also more of a conclusion. Kudos to the soundtrack which worked wonders. hero. Both Wilson and Bell portray these characters realistically, reacting to situations the way many real people would. Owen Wilson delivers a solid performance in his first dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. There is no point he looks less than comfortable in this role, drawing upon a reserve of kickass nobody knew existed. He really takes charge when necessary to save his family, but he never comes across as some invincible action star. Lake Bell, who according to me is mostly unlikable in the roles she chooses, is brilliant here, as a supporting wife & a mother stuck in such a situation is hard act to pull, & Bell scores full marks. The young actresses, Sterling Jerins & Claire Geare are excellent as well-which is very important because we have root for this family and believe in their struggle-which we do. Surprisingly, Brosnan is actually the comic relief to a certain degree. In a small role, he does what he does best, remain likable. This is a well put together cast and everyone gives it their all to make us feel just as tense and scared as the characters on screen. As for the film itself-this is one of the most intense films I’ve ever sat through in a theater. If you have heart problems-you might want to wait for the DVD as the movie just never breaks, it never lets up the suspense for more than a moment. On the whole, ‘No Escape’ is a thrilling, emotional ride that deserves to be seen. The film is far more effective as a vacation thriller than it should be, mainly because the filmmakers and cast do a better job creating tension and selling the premise than what we normally see in this thriller sub-genre. This is a thrilling, emotional ride that deserves to be seen. Unfortunately, do to a lack of marketing and overall interest from audiences, I feel it will end up finding most of its success on DVD and Digital. If you like being thrilled, scared, or like films about families struggling through peril and danger (if you liked The Impossible, you’re going to love this), then this is the film for you and it is indeed worth the price of admission. Must watch!!
Director – John Erick Dowdle
Rated – R
Run Time – 103 minutes