Friday, September 11, 2015

Movie Review #307: "No Escape" (2015)

Movie"No Escape"
Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
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Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is an engineer and has just landed a contract with a multinational firm in a small Asian country. Just as he and his family arrive and try to get settled in their hotel, a revolution erupts on the streets and rebels start to kill any foreigner they can find. Now, what once was an opportunity for a great job in an exotic country has turned into a fight for survival as Jack and his family try to survive and find a way out of the now war-torn country.

Well, that sure was intense!

"No Escape" is a thriller that doesn't waste any time diving into the thick of it all. Within 5 minutes of the movie beginning, people are getting killed left and right and riots are breaking out in the streets of the unnamed Asian country where Jack Dwyer, played by Owen Wilson, his wife Annie, played by Lake Bell, and their two young daughters Lucy, played by Sterling Jerins, and Beeze, played by Claire Geare, have just moved. Right off the bat, we were instantly struck with this sigh of relief for having never traveled abroad, and if you have ever had any desire to visit an exotic third or "fourth world country" (as they call this unnamed place in the film) with an unstable government, this movie will rip that desire right out of you and won't think twice about it. Many have dubbed this film xenophobic and/or culturally insensitive, and some have even gone as far as calling it racist since it's about a white family being hunted down by native rebels, painting the worst possible picture of them. We feel like that was its mission, to make viewers uncomfortable about their surroundings while traveling regardless of country of origin, as there are many very deeply disturbing scenes that would make the strongest viewer possibly need therapy after leaving the theater. After viewing this film, we don't totally agree with the "culturally insensitive" assessment. We could see how the knee-jerk reaction would be to jump to this conclusion, and I myself even had fleeting thoughts like this during its run time, but it isn't a simple matter of heroes and villains or good versus evil. The filmmakers and writers seem to actually go out of their way to insert some anti-Western corporation commentary from one of the minor characters to point out the rebels aren't so much evil, but much like Jack, are simply doing what they feel they need to do in order to protect their families. The country the Dwyer's are in is never disclosed and all of the flags in the background and on military uniforms do not belong to any existing country, so there's no clear cut answer to if this was inspired by true historical events or if it's all fiction with some slight and exaggerated borrowings from real life.

Owen Wilson is actually very good as Jack Dwyer, and this shows his versatility as an actor. It has been a long time since Wilson has done anything other than a comedic role, but he certainly shows the drama and action genres are no trouble for him at all. Lake Bell also does a very good job as Annie, a mother who is thrust into an unfamiliar situation based on necessity after Jack accepts a job offer. She is the poster child for #WhitePeopleProblems, someone who has just been given a huge culture shock and worries about a lack of modern conveniences. Once the intensity begins, all this is obviously dropped by the wayside as she is simply trying to survive and keep her kids safe in the middle of an all-out war. Neither she nor Jack ever turn into anything more than they are or move into the realm of the extraordinary, they are just a couple of parents trying to survive and keep their family together and safe. The extraordinary ass-kicking is left to Pierce Brosnan, who plays Hammond, an older man with some clear military training who the family happens upon on their plane to their new home. Unfortunately, while he does offer an excellent role here, Hammond does tend to pop up right when it's convenient and does so a little too often, making some of his part feel a bit contrived and coincidental. Overall, the acting is fresh and believable.

"No Escape" may exploit our irrational or maybe even rational fears of travelling to unfamiliar places, but in the end, this movie is everything it should be. Sure, it's a little short on plot and depth, but it is intense as hell, frightening, exciting, and can be very disturbing and unsettling at times. It kept us on the edge of our seat the entire time.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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