By Liz Casanova
Starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan
Written by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle
Directed By John Erick Dowdle
Running time 103 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Dollar
Thanks to a new important job providing clean water to third world countries, Jack (Owen Wilson) flies his very reluctant family to a nondescript country somewhere in Asia. His wife Annie (Lake Bell) is not impressed with the "great new life" that is promised. And they also have two adorable young daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) to worry about. Even meeting the street smart Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) isn't enough to provide comfort. The next day Jack walks to the local market to buy a newspaper and that's when the chaos and violence begins. A group of rebels takes over the city and commence a slaughtering spree. And apparently they really hate foreigners (especially Americans). Jack runs back to the hotel to get his family out of there.
It's disheartening when a film starts off with a promising opening sequence, a solid cast and the Weinstein stamp of approval but decides to throw in an uninspiring plot. No Escape is a 90s flick stuck in a 2015 action movie. Meaning, today's audience is too savvy to swallow the sometimes ridiculous twists and turns. We live in a world where we have become forensic scientists thanks to CSI and armchair detectives by watching Law & Order. Viewers have become conditioned to find the clues to figure out who makes it to the next scene.
Cinematically speaking, the scenes are polished with a bit of independent filmmaking, especially in the beginning. The tension and interaction between the family is genuine. It is solid chemistry that is captured by close ups and not rushing the actors, letting them take their time with the smaller and intimate moments. Director John Erick Dowdle obviously went to film school (he did–NYU) but is also influenced by today's independent filmmaker. Which is why it is disappointing that the story weakens less than half way through the film.
Dowdle wrote the script with his brother Drew, and the duo present a textbook action film. That's not really the problem though. Many great films (action or not) have structured storylines, but they are great because the writers and directors make creative choices when fleshing out a scene. The maddening part about No Escape is that each "escape" scene is more nonsensical than the last. Also, the film tries to address some kind of political and social issues about big corporations in bed with world governments regarding natural resources like clean water. As interesting as that sounds, the explanation of why the rebels take over the city are loosely explained. The opposition becomes one dimensional characters, and the opportunity to really explore a social message is lost.
However, No Escape has a great cast that (in spite an overall tepid film) is hands down its strength. Wilson is surprisingly endearing and Bell beautifully captures the complexities of her role as protective mother, sometimes exasperated wife and vulnerable human being. Brosnan adds some cheeky comic relief and it's so hard not to be charmed by him. The girls who play the daughters are also a revelation. They had challenging scenes that even seasoned actors would find difficult to execute. That being said, it's not a run-out-and-go-see-it-opening-weekend film.