Starring: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Running Time: 103 mins
No Escape is an American film about a family of expats who, one day after moving to their new home in a South-East Asian nation, find themselves stuck in the middle of a vicious coup d’état, with seemingly no way out.
Given that this film’s cast seems completely ill-suited to the story at hand, No Escape was a massive surprise for me. With an impressively gritty and violent story that captures the desperate and frantic emotions of innocent people trapped in the middle of a political insurgency, it’s hugely exciting to watch from start to finish, and with some very strong directing, as well as some good performances, this is actually a far better film than you could ever expect.
Now, above all, this film is highly reminiscent of The Impossible, a film about a Western family who get caught up in the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. As such, I was looking for a lot of the same things as that movie with No Escape, and given how highly I think of The Impossible, the fact that this film doesn’t pale too much in comparison is a big positive.
Of course, the film definitely doesn’t quite match up to the emotionally harrowing and devastating nature of The Impossible, given it focuses more on the heat-of-the-moment, action-packed drama, but there are some very strong parallels when it comes to how it portrays its characters.
Although I can’t say that the characters in this movie are the most well-developed, what does work very well is how easy it is to get a sense of their panic in this situation. This film could just have been a shaky cam, action-heavy affair, but it’s instead a lot more effective, brilliantly bringing across how a simple family are suddenly thrust into a horrifically violent situation, with seemingly no escape.
Now, the main reason that that is so effective is because of the film’s directing. In general, John Erick Dowdle does a great job to bring some thrilling action scenes to life, shying away from excessive shaky cam in exchange for some very tight and intense camerawork, which has the brilliant added effect of making the film’s setting feel incredibly claustrophobic.
You may think that a major South East Asian city can’t be all that claustrophobic, but Dowdle sets up the film’s location just like a horror maze, with unpredictability and vicious death lying around every corner, making the task of the humble family to find a way out all the more thrilling and nail-biting to witness.
What’s more is that the performances go a long way to making the film so intense. Owen Wilson, outside of his trademark role, does a very good job as an everyman action hero. He’s likable, focused and exciting to watch throughout, but also brings across his character’s own fear and confusion in the situation, making him all the more relatable as our main character.
Although Wilson’s co-stars aren’t always quite so stunning, Lake Bell improves massively over the course of the movie, bringing more to the table than the shuddering and shrieking mother that she plays early on, whilst the two children, Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare, also impress in some very challenging roles.
Overall, I was really impressed by No Escape. It’s not a perfect film, nor does it have the emotionally devastating aspect that The Impossible brings to the table, but it is a hugely exciting action thriller, featuring excellent directing and performances that make a violent and unpredictable story as intense as it should be, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.