No Escape, 2015.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle.
Starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan.
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.
In the midst of a political uprising, Jack (Owen Wilson) finds himself briefly in a hotel elevator while racing against the clock to reunite himself with his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two child daughters. For roughly 30 seconds the camera lingers on Jack in a state of panic, dread, uncertainty, and fear; a multitude of facial expressions and mannerisms that until No Escape, rightfully no one thought slapstick goofball Owen Wilson could pull off, commanding the screen.
His evident state of distress also mimics audience reactions; “What is happening and why is there an army of rebels literally colliding with militia in broad daylight”. We are right there with Jack praying for the safety of his family, conflicted with wanting to know more about the reasoning behind this uprising yet also more concerned with placing emphasis on survival. Jack doesn’t exactly possess the necessary tools to take on these savages with a gung-ho approach, so No Escape essentially boils down to palpable and ferocious intensity in the face of death. There’s not much to the narrative besides the will to persevere and survive against the adversity of being behind enemy lines, but director John Erick Dowdle’s strong claustrophobic direction that fixates the story on family drama ensures that there is non-stop suspense.
That isn’t a hyperbolic statement either; the chaos kicks in 15 minutes into the movie and is simply relentless. Furthermore, most movies of this nature would come across wholly predictable with artificial danger, but No Escape throws these characters into some truly harrowing situations and is ultimately successful at making the viewer feel like any of these Texans can die at any given moment. The film’s climax is truly unforgettable and one of the more twisted things we have seen in a movie this year.
Much has been said from No Escape‘s detractors that there is a strong sense of xenophobia and racism permeating the events, and while I agree that a case can be made for that, ultimately this isn’t a movie out to paint Asians in a negative light. There are multiple junctures in the movie where some civilians actually risk their lives to help keep this family from being harmed. Even in this shell-shocking crisis, none of the Americans begin slinging racial insults or blurting out xenophobic comments. Some could argue that the script definitely needed a leader per-se for the rebels leading this uprising to provide some empathy and understanding to why they are protecting this country, but the decision not to include such a character is a smart one that keeps the flow of the film right where it needs to be; pulse-pounding tension regarding a family and their attempt at survival.
Pierce Brosnan also has a minor role in the film, although he mostly just feels there to either save the family when the script has written them into a corner, or spout off exposition regarding what triggered the uprising. There’s really only one scene where the morality behind the violence is explored, which is unfortunate because if there was just a tiny bit more focus on the narrative (just enough so that the intensity also keeps rolling along) we would have a real masterpiece on our hands.
No Escape wants to say something important regarding Americans essentially taking over other countries via power plants and other things, but is unsure of how to express where the line should be drawn. If it weren’t for the realistic and grounded barbaric violence, the shockingly believable family drama (it should also be noted that the child actors in this film are excellent), and “us against them”gray area of survival, No Escape would probably be a mess. It misses the mark on saying anything useful or interesting politically, but still winds up being a relentlessly horrifying tale of survival and men and women’s ability to adapt in the face of danger.
This is a movie were Owen Wilson bashes another human’s brains in, but instead of No Escape glossing over it and glorifying it was chest-beating action hero bravado, there is actually a brief moment of reflection and a reminder from Pierce Brosnan’s character that in this situation, you do anything necessary, no matter how ugly, to protect what’s most important; family.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook