White people should just stay home, apparently.
After disappointing in the states, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) takes his family on a business trip to a foreign country where he hopes to not only impress his wife (Lake Bell), but also get out of this work-slump that he’s been in since the recession of 2008. However, little does Jack know that the native residents of this foreign land don’t take kindly to people like Jack, nor do they take kindly to the water company that Jack represents. So, without him really knowing, Jack and his family is being targeted for representing America and its selfish, rude ways of sticking their nose into other countries’ business that they don’t need to be bothered with in the first place. While Jack, nor his wife really have any experience in kicking ass, or taking names, what they do have with them is the will to live, as well as the inspiration in making sure that their two daughters survive this hell-zone. Because even though they don’t know where to go, or even how this is all going to end, they are, most definitely, going to try and get out of this situation with a fight.
Even if it comes close to killing them.
For a good portion of its running-time, No Escape is actually a damn solid thriller. Director John Erick Dowdle starts things off nice and slowly by introducing us to these characters, the gritty, but odd scenery they’re thrown into, and lets all of the craziness happen, but doesn’t over-do it. Once Owen Wilson’s character goes out for the morning newspaper, there’s a slight chill of discomfort in the air; it’s almost as if we, yes, know that something bad is going to happen, but because Wilson’s character is such a middle-class boob and clearly has no idea what to do in the face of violence, we’re already in-suspense and waiting to see what goes down. Then, the movie focuses on what’s going on with Lake Bell’s character, her two daughters, and the hotel that they’re staying at, and instead of just being tense and somewhat fun, it’s now absolutely terrifying.
Because really, what No Escape wants to be, is a real-life thriller that makes you feel like, if you were given the same misfortune as these characters to be stuck in the same situation, that you’d have no clue what to do either. Rather than having a bunch of pre-calculated, James Bond-like ways of thinking and gadgets to save yourself from an angry hoard of killers, you’re just a simpleton who may have no actual prior experience with violence or tense situations such as these. So therefore, you have to act on intuition, as well as your gut-feeling and this can sometimes lead to the dumbest, perhaps most risky decisions you could make, but because you want to live, and want those that you love to live, too, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what.
This is perhaps the biggest fear that No Escape taps into and it’s why, for at least the first 45 minutes, it’s a solid action-thriller that puts you directly in the shoes of its protagonists and makes you actually believe that, well, this could actually happen to you.
Of course, a lot of the movie is completely far-fetched and a bit silly, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how the movie switches the idea around of racism being against white people, and no other race or color. A lot of people have called No Escape “racist” and “ignorant” for not naming its supposed “villains”, or being more descriptive in just who it is that they represent (are they Cambodians?), but really, it’s doing something that not many other blockbusters in the same vein do and that’s focusing on white people being targeted for the color of their skin and how, no matter how hard they try, they can never be taken in as innocent.
Well, that’s because it definitely should and it makes me wonder why so much of No Escape, while occasionally smart, if anything, intriguing, also seems to fall apart. For example, the movie really wants to throw the grisly, heinous violence in our faces, which is fine, but by the same token, also wants us to see this movie as something of a cheery flick about sticking together as a unit, regardless of what trepidations stand in your way. While there’s no problem with this message to begin with, in a movie as dirty and disgusting as No Escape, it almost feels like a cheat – kind of like Dowdle himself couldn’t come up with the right tone to tie everything together.
That’s why, after a solid hour or so, No Escape starts to get, not just very silly, but very messy, trying to make sense of its violence, add some context, and most importantly, act as if it’s “important”, when in reality, it’s not. If anything, No Escape is just another shoot-em-up action-thriller, that also happens to take a ripped-from-the-headlines circumstance and give it a realistic treatment – anything added, honestly, feels unnecessary and silly. After all, this is the same movie that features Owen Wilson chucking his two daughters from one fifteen-story building to another, and hardly encountering any strength problems or injuries in the process.
Then again, it’s pretty interesting to see Owen Wilson in this kind of role and it also calls into question just how much thought may have actually gone into No Escape. While the movie could have easily cast a Jason Statham, or a Tom Cruise, or hell, even a Matt Damon in the role and act as if they’re just the everyday man pushed to the brink, the movie actually goes so far as to cast somebody as plain, ordinary, and dorky as Wilson, which works in helping it make it seem like this character has no clue what he’s getting himself into, or how to get out of it. Same goes for Lake Bell, who does get a tad annoying with her constantly pushing and bothering Wilson, but doesn’t get in the way as much.
If anything, however, the one character I’d probably like to see get his own movie is Pierce Brosnan’s Hammond, a variation on James Bond, that’s perhaps more realistic. Not only is the man wiser beyond his years, but he’s also a nice guy who can strike up a conversation about anything and generally seems to know what he’s talking about, regardless of what the topic may be. At the same time, however, there’s this idea that the guy can’t be messed with and what this does, whenever his presence is felt, makes you feel all warm, cozy and safe inside, even if you know full well, that it may not even matter.
Something we want to feel with James Bond, but come on – the guy’s too busy getting laid half of the time!
Consensus: One-half a surprisingly effective, if ugly-looking thriller, No Escape starts off strong, but soon dives into trying to take on a bit more than it can chew and lose itself in unexpectedness hokiness.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz