No Escape (2015)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Times Owen Wilson says his trademark “wow”: 1
Times Owen Wilson kills a man with a blunt object: 1
Hired, I assume, only for his unmistakable American identity, Wilson plays Jack Dwyer, a Texan transplanted to Southeast Asia (the script is purposefully non-descript on the exact country) to work at a water treatment facility. He took the job because he thought he would make a positive difference in the third world nation. Instead, he came at a terrible time. His new company has been accused of buying out the country’s labor force, essentially enslaving them. Just hours after arriving with his wife (Lake Bell) and two young daughters (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare), Jack gets caught in the middle of a violent riot between police and protesters, who set out to find the American workers who work for the company (smells like Benghazi). Jack and his family, with the help of other Americans (including a brilliant Pierce Brosnan), will have to leave the city if they’ll want to survive. But doing so during a free-for-all coup is no easy task.
The Dowdle Brothers—writer Drew and writer-director John—are not known for particularly high-quality filmmaking. But as they’ve shown with “Quarantine,” “Devil,” and “As Above, So Below,” they do have the ability to create panic and suspense. “No Escape” is no different. More than any movie I’ve seen this year, “No Escape” had my heart thumping. The likable family was in mortal danger nearly the whole time. Without any weapons, knowledge of the area or the language, or relevant skills (unlike Liam Neeson, who always knows exactly what he’s doing), these civilians are playing out the fears every tourist has had at some point during a vacation. But this isn’t a vacation for the Dwyers. This is supposed to be their new home. It’s a smart concept, and the Dowdle Bros’ written dialogue is realistic and intense. The rest, however, is absurd. But you’ll quickly get over that.
Owen Wilson hasn’t had a non-comedic role since 2001’s “Behind Enemy Lines.” As far as I know, Lake Bell never has. So their casting in this action-packed thriller raised eyebrows. But “No Escape” never pretends to be “Silence of the Lambs.” The dialogue is short and to-the-point; in “No Escape,” you get all you need from what you see. For that reason, even comedians Wilson and Bell can’t bring this thriller down. In fact, as a scared-shitless everyday American family, they’re rather convincing. These aren’t supposed to be hardened killers, so their innocence is an asset. Pierce Brosnan, in a smaller role, gives what might just be my favorite performance of his entire career—Bond included. His character, Hammond, is cool, smart, and great with a gun. Oh, how I missed the days of Pierce Brosnan in a convincing action role. Maybe he still has a great performance left in him.
Thanks to the nature of the plot, “No Escape” is a fast-paced thriller with the ability to get you on the edge of your seat. It’s definitely flawed, but you can’t help but enjoy something this exhilarating.