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September 5, 2015

No Escape

by Franz Patrick


No Escape (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

Jack (Owen Wilson), an engineer, is hired by a company in Cambodia and he is required to relocate long-term so he takes his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), and two daughters (Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare) to move overseas with him. Unbeknownst to them, hours prior to their arrival, a coup has started, beginning with the assassination of a Cambodian prime minister in the hands of rebels. These rebels wish to kill all Americans they can find, with special interest in those involved with the same company that hired Jack.

“No Escape,” directed by John Erick Dowdle, is an entertaining thriller with a knack for establishing and building suspenseful scenes. Although the delivery misses at times, there is enough craft here to warrant a mild recommendation. However, the picture would have been stronger if the screenplay had spent more time establishing the political landscape eventually so the audience could have a clearer context as to why these murders are occurring. The key word is “eventually” because the film is at its best during the first thirty minutes—the fact that we do not exactly know why violence is erupting in the streets. We could only guess and that is part of the horror.

The movie is composed mostly of chase sequences and so it is most necessary that there is variation in the approach so we are never bored. On this level, it delivers. There are chases outdoors, indoors, solo, as a group, in broad daylight, at night, on foot, and using a vehicle. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to hide rather than to outrun. The score enters and exits—and as in good horror or thrillers, it knows when to be silent in order to make us tense up all the more.

A standout scene takes place on a rooftop as the rebels close in on the family of interest. Jack has a crazy idea of jumping onto the next building. It might have been easier if he were alone in his attempt to survive. But children are neither physically able to jump that far nor psychologically ready for taking on such a task. What is to be done then? It must be seen to be believed. I felt proud of the director, who co-wrote the film with Drew Dowdle, because he was willing to go there. Yes, there is a comedic pre- and/or after effect but it is due to a healthy mix of sheer excitement and a sense of incredulousness.

Pierce Brosnan plays a British man named Hammond whose role is both predictable and underwhelming. Although he does a good job in playing the character, the more intelligent choice would have involved casting a performer who we do not expect to play such a character. Here, it is almost too easy and so when the chips are down and the family’s time is seemingly up, we expect Hammond to show up and save them.

“No Escape” ticks off the necessary ingredients that results in a highly watchable thriller. It makes a few fresh choices in terms of putting together images so that a sense of urgency is created and we believe that this family is truly in danger. If there had been a well-defined context designed to support the chaos and violence, it could have turned a different beast altogether.

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