My Rating: 5 out of 10
Based solely off the trailer, No Escape seemed to be a fictional suspense version of Argo. However, after actually viewing the film, I can say that it has more similarities to 2012 than to Argo. This isn’t to say that No Escape is a bad film, but you should go into it understanding what you are paying for, and for myself and some of my friends, we left the theatre a bit disappointed.
The plot of No Escape takes place in an unnamed country in Southeast Asia that borders Vietnam and has some (possibly unintended) similarities to Cambodia. Jack Dwyer (played by Owen Wilson), along with his wife and two daughters, are moving to this country to work for an American water company after Jack’s old company went “bottom up.” However, literally the same day they arrive, the leader of their new home is killed by a group of militant rebels, who proceed to hunt down foreigners and cause all sorts of anarchy.
Coincidence and luck are the two themes of this over-the-top action thriller. Jack and his family encounter incredibly dangerous situations time and time again, but for some reason are able to always remain “ten feet ahead” of their pursuers. While many of these scenes do offer adrenaline pumping dramatics and intense shock value, after a while the film becomes a little too unrealistic for its own good. Where a film like 2012 had on its side strange pseudoscientific theories about the end of the world, No Escape looks too much like a realistic film trying to make important commentary on global relations and how we are all humans, when really it’s 100 minutes of “how will Owen Wilson get out of this one?”
While there are a few scenes that deliver emotional shocks alongside the action, nearly all of them fell flat as the emotional depth behind them was dropped and ignored for the rest of the film. The ideas of lying/killing to protect the people you love are explored slightly, but not for enough screen time for these discussions to leave a lasting mark on the audience. One of the most emotional resonant scenes in one in which the youngest daughter has to go to the bathroom and her mother tells her to use her pants since they have no other options. This is small, but it is real and understandable and resonates easily, whereas many other scenes did not.
When looking into why the filmmakers may have had trouble creating something that lived up to the promise of the trailer, it seems that clunky writing was to blame. The cast is phenomenal with both Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan doing excellent jobs trying to bring their characters to life. But the Dwyer family in general just seemed very one-dimension. Jack’s wife, Annie (played by Lake Bell), seemed dead set on trying to make the worst possible decisions throughout the film, where his daughters would go back and forth from being totally unhelpful and petrified with fear to ready to whatever they could to help.
Where the filmmakers failed at creating compelling characters or themes, they did a great job of ramping up the excitement for a while. The scenes with Pierce Brosnan in particular were very exciting and somewhat believable within the context of the story. However, I left the theatre unclear of what exactly was trying to be said with the story. There were definitely aspects to the script that could be viewed as xenophobic, though I really doubt this was the intention. I heard a few people commenting after the film about how “this is why you should never leave America”, which isn’t too far from the idea the story seems to be centered around.
In terms of going to see No Escape, I would say it’s based on your preferences. It certainly isn’t a must-see movie and is barely even that great of an action film, but if you like thrillers and excitement and understand the type of movie you are going to, then you may end up having a better experience than me. The movie is not gruesomely violent, but there are definitely some scenes that kids would not be able to handle. I feel like teenagers are the primary audience here, though anyone that likes suspense, but doesn’t care too much about the other elements of a movie will probably enjoy themselves.