Sep 062015
No Escape Poster
Title: No Escape
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Owen Wilson,
Lake Bell,
Pierce Brosnan,
Genre: Action, Thriller
Runtime: 1 Hour 43 mins
Music: Marco Beltrami,
Buck Sanders
Studio: Bold Films,
Weinstein Company
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Aug 26 2015
UK: Sep 04 2015
See If You Like: Black Hawk Down,
The Impossible,

A film with a simple yet gripping premise; how awful would it be if you were in an nameless country in Asia when a civil war kicked off?; No Escape is in cinemas now.

Starring Owen Wilson in one of very few completely serious roles (the Wedding Crashers star tends to stick to comedy), No Escape bundles a family on a plane, drops them in a nameless Asian country, lets them meet one singular westerner (who’ll obviously be of vital import to their endeavour), and almost instantly starts a campaign of terrifying violence which isn’t solely about control of their country, but seems to be about targeting any foreigners who happen to be in the vicinity; leading head-of-the-family Owen (here known as Jack) to understandably take his family on the run, and look for a way out. Any way out.

Granted there may be a little more to it than that; the rioters etc. seem to be targeting the company Owen’s planning on working for rather than just being violent for the sake of violence, and Pierce Brosnan’s (Goldeneye) British secret agent type (imagine Bryan Mills, aka Liam Neeson in Taken, before he retired) does offer a spot of exposition; but really, its all just fluff. The exposition is completely unnecessary, especially when delivered at the eleventh hour, and it’s not as if Owen, his wife (Lake Bell, No Strings Attached), or his two daughters, care why they’re being shot at. It’s not as if they can hope to reason with the bandanna wearing murderers once they know why they’ve started killing every fair-skinned visitor they come across, or that they’d want to. So while the filmmakers may have tried to give No Escape a little more depth, it remains an extremely shallow movie at heart.

Its shallow nature is also reflected in its ‘enemies.’ Without any true, meaningful exposition the bad guys are simply reduced to faceless (literally, as almost everyone of them is covering their face with a red bandanna) killers chasing them for no apparent reason; like a Daily Mail caricature of “those pesky Asians.”

Still, people watching something like No Escape aren’t hoping for any meaningful political insight, or any real depth. They’re here for a movie, to watch a family go through hell and high water to protect one another, and thankfully No Escape delivers in spades. From the get-go we see Jack and his family get shot at, thrown across rooftops, chased by a tank, attempting to hide in plain sight, facing the possibility of having to kill someone, hiding amongst dead bodies, and being unsure who they can and can’t trust. It’s impossibly gripping, and creates a handful of scenes so tense you won’t be able to breathe.

Thankfully there are one or two respites from the chaos, fear, and unrelenting tension, where Jack and family get to have a sit down, a cuddle, and possibly tell a joke or two over some roasted ‘chicken’, but they’re fleeting moments in an otherwise action-packed journey akin to something like The Impossible; only here the tsunami has been replaced by a tidal wave of violence the family are trying to outrun and fight through.

No Escape 01

Owen does a great job as leading man; he doesn’t have to bring the emotion too often, being more of a leader than anything, but can deliver when he has to; and Lake Bell is more than acceptable as the wife/sidekick/Jack’s scream-buddy. Pierce Brosnan was also a welcome addition (even if his character lacked depth it was still nice to see him doing something different, and to get another character aside from ‘family member #3’ or ‘faceless goon #473’), but really there wasn’t too much call for ‘acting’ in No Escape. Run, scream, look worried now and then, run and scream some more. It’s not a criticism of anyone involved, as they were all proficient enough, but don’t expect anything Oscar worthy here.

An undeniably dark trip through a city and country you’d never want to visit, a Daily Mail article in film-form (look, the foreigners do hate you!), and a movie most Asian tourist boards will dread you seeing, No Escape is shallow, fairly forgettable, predictable, xenophobic, and led by completely two-dimensional characters. Yet, it’s action-packed, it’s tense, it’s dark, it’s a gripping journey you won’t regret embarking upon, and it’s also a great chance to see Owen Wilson doing a serious film. Far from perfect, No Escape is still worth catching – just as long as it’s not the in-flight movie on your trip to Asia.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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