Dir: John Erick Dowdle
Writer(s): John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle
Cast: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit, and Pierce Brosnan
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.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
No Escape – originally titled The Coup – was originally set to come out earlier this year, but got pushed back to the end of August to probably avoid any sort of competition at the box office. It is also coming out at the end of the month, which usually isn’t a spot that films want because it usually means there isn’t a ton of faith. Thankfully, No Escape isn’t entirely a bad film and has some redeeming qualities to it thanks to its cast and tension filled moments.
The film follows Jack Dwyer (Wilson), who after his company goes belly-up, takes a new job for a big corporation in a foreign country and brings his family of wife Annie (Bell) and his daughters Lucy (Jerins) and Beeze (Geare) with him. On the plane they meet Hammond (Brosnan), who is also heading the country and gives them a few tips to get around. Jack and his family get to their hotel room and have a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings. Unbeknownst to them, a group of nationals kill the prime minister and start a coup, throwing the country into turmoil. Jack eventually is the first to know as he goes to town and gets caught in-between a fight between the police and nationals. Jack then races to this family to protect them and find safety.
Now a lot of people are coming out and calling this movie racist or xenophobic, which honestly never crossed my mind while watching. Mainly because I don’t think of things like that when I’m immediately watching something and I don’t go in willing looking for flaws in a film like some people do. Looking back now, did I see that film that way? Honestly, no because I was engaged in the film.
The best thing that works in No Escape is that film puts you right in the action and what Jack and his family have to do in order to survive. The many tension filled moments work effectively because the family feels real. The family unit has great chemistry and brings some levity to the otherwise brutal and hard to watch moments in the film.
Owen Wilson isn’t playing an action hero. He’s playing a normal guy that cares about protecting his family: That’s it. Wilson only has one real action film to his credit in Behind Enemy Lines, but he was playing a soldier in that (I Spy was more of an action comedy). So don’t except Wilson to pick up a gun and never miss a target, he does have his heroic moments, especially the heavily promoted throwing his kids from one building to another. I think since we’ve seen Wilson in so many comedies, that we kind of forget his dramatic roles and thankfully he brings some of that here. He also still finds time to inject some humor it the film, which is one of the things that surprised me about the film is that there is some great moments of humor. Although some moments felt too forced and but I could understand why they were there.
Lake Bell, who has been sticking to some comedies lately, also gets some dramatic moments here and there as a devoted mother and distressed wife. The little girls playing the daughters thankfully don’t fall into the annoying kid category that they could have gone into it, and while they do fall into that category at first, they quickly know that they have to follow their parents through the dark streets and hide in small and uncomfortable corners.
No Escape falls into a weird category, in that the film is more of a thriller than anything else. However, the film has been marketed a bit as an action-thriller and while there are moments of action, I’ll get to that in a minute, there are moments of horror thanks to director Dowdle’s horror filmography. Like I mention, the action comes mostly from Pierce Brosnan’s character – and Sahajak Boonthanakit’s character “Kenny Rogers.” Brosnan does steal the film, and he’s clearly enjoying himself while doing it. Sadly, he doesn’t get a ton of screen time.
While I did find the film highly, and surprisingly, enjoyable No Escape does have some problems. The whole reasoning behind the coup is a little lackluster and when it’s explained why it happen, it kind of kills and stops the film. The other thing is that we never really get to know any of the “villains.” There is one particular villain that pops up in almost every scene involving the nationalists (I seriously can’t think of another word), but we never get a name and the language they speak is never subtitled. Sure the reasoning can be said that the film is all about the Dwyer family, and in most cases you can figure out what they are probably saying by their actions, but still. There are also some moments of slow motion that seem unnecessary and put in to, supposedly, slow down and show the severity of the situation. Thankfully, those moments are only in the first act of the film.
All in all, No Escape is a surprisingly fun and tension filled film that is held together but the great family chemistry and stars Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan. The film lacks in some areas, but it won’t be a complete waste to watch it.
3.5 out of 5