No Escape (2015)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Contains spoilers.

Owen Wilson is a comedian, an emotive one for sure but a comedian nonetheless. Lake Bell is also an emotive comedian, but together, they don't really strike as the hardcore parenting type. But that's exactly what they fumble their way through in No Escape.

After some bad luck, Jack Dwyer (Wilson) has figured that the best option would be to accept a position with Cardiff, a tech company with its hands in all kinds of foreign operations. The position is in a random, unnamed Southeast-Asian country (Laos or Cambodia), so Dwyer moves his family there, his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two daughters, Lucy and Beeze. Within 24 hours, the president of the country has been killed and there's a massive coup, with rebels actively looking for, and killing, any foreigners. Jack, who's caught in between rioters and riot cops while getting a newspaper and after seeing an American shoved to his knees and executed, realizes that he needs to get his family to safety.

The result is a badly written and badly paced story that tries to show the lengths that a mother and father will go to for the sake of their children. There's a flash-forward as a prologue that doesn't really add anything to the story itself, after which we get a slow intro and some hints that something's happening. Then the movie jumps into some action and suspense. The story switches pace numerous times, even throwing in extensive and overused slow motion. Maybe it was used to try to increase dramatic effect but really it just shows that the makers have no skill at creating drama in other ways.

As the Dwyers begin their escape, Léo Hinstin's photography becomes increasingly frantic, like a high school film project. The camera bounces around with, literally, every step. Its almost hard to believe that Dowdle let such atrocious camera work happen. Could be that's what he was going for, because it certainly made me sick to my stomach and it was successful for the found-footage Quarantine he helmed, but here, it's much more off-putting than anything else.

 

The casting is also off-putting, with the best character portrayal coming from Pierce Brosnan, who hasn't appeared in any substantial role or film, opting instead for a string of B, C, and D-grade action movies, ever since he left the James Bond franchise. Owen Wilson is capable of being soulful, charming, and funny, of course. But as a father-turned-hero he's more of an unfortunate, unwilling, and fumbling participant. Lake Bell is an okay mother; at least she brings some emotion to her character instead of poorly placed dad jokes. Basically, the children are the best actors, and everyone else was desperate for a recast.

In addition, the writing is... well there aren't adequate words for the level of shittiness. It's amateurish, like something a grade schooler would write. Except if a grade schooler had written this, it would've been amazingly imaginative instead of a long, dragging film. There's a scene where Brosnan's character, Hammond, saves the Dwyers. After some rest, the group need to move quickly, as some rebels have gotten a good vantage point and could see them, and then start shooting, at any moment. They manage to get away, with Hammond killing all but one rebel and getting shot himself. He urges the Dwyers to run as he succumbs to the gunshot, all while the last rebel climbs into a truck to chase them. As Hammond dies and the Dwyers run away, it's like the writers realized that the truck with gun-toting-rebel would catch up to them quickly, saying to themselves, "They won't make it." And that's exactly what Hammond says as he comes back to life, pushing himself to his knees to defend the family once more.

The combination of mediocre acting, terrible writing, and general lack of logic make this movie more of a conundrum than a real suspense or thriller. There are some tense moments, true, but overall it's just a sadly overdramatic enterprise to signal some career downturns and how not to cast Owen Wilson.

 
 

TL;DR: Tense moments? Yes. Casting choices? Meh. Slow motion? Almost as much as 300. Logic? Very little to be found. Wait until this one's in the $5 bin; there are all kinds of action thrillers that are worth the money before spending any on this. The predictable, emotional ride just isn't worth the level of bad.

  • Acting – 11 / 20
  • Story – 6 / 20
  • Cinematography – 0 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 3 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 3 / 10
  • Action/Thriller – 4 / 10
  • Other – 0 / 10
 

Grade F = 27 / 100