by Ryan Guerra (Phoenix)
Full disclosure…I am not a fan of Owen Wilson. In fact, I have down right loathed him since I first saw him in Armageddon. In my opinion, he always plays an annoying, somewhat exaggerated and not very funny character. To make things worse, No Escape is a non-comedy, non-quirky, straight man Owen Wilson film. Seems like a terrible idea. Still, the trailer intrigued me because I wanted to see if Wilson had any range to be a “normal action” character for once or would he continue to live up to my low expectations of him.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed him in this performance greatly. Wilson plays a father who uproots his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two little girls and moves them to Southeast Asia to work on a project to bring clean drinking water to the country and provide a better life for his family. However shortly after arrival, the family finds themselves in the middle of a violent political uprising they do not understand nor have any idea why it is happening and must somehow find sanctuary and escape this foreign city where Americans are being executed on sight. The film is intense. As soon as the coup begins, we are taken on a ride of constant tension and emotion, broken up with quiet moments where Wilson uses “dad humor” to comfort his family. Wilson shines in these moments because his “lame Dad humor” is not only believable, but his demeanor throughout the film is realistic and loving. His chemistry with his cast mates is stellar as the family all deliver solid performances and you can believe they are an actual family.
As they are moving through the city they come across a familiar face in Pierce Brosnan who plays some kind of mercenary ex-agent type. Brosnan’s screen time is short but he steals every scene he is in. He also gives an explanation, though simple, of what is going on and how the family can find safety. Critics of this film may fault it for glossing over a real world issue of western colonialism and no attempt to humanize the plight of the locals, however for me at least, this film isn’t trying to tell a giant story, but rather a far simpler one which is about family. Additionally, the trailers for this film present it as more of an action film, which it is not.
In the end we are left with a frightening atmosphere where we constantly might ask ourselves what we would do in that situation. The strength of this film is the family dynamic and the strong performances that give them life. Though the film mostly ignores a real world issue, it delivers a thrilling fast paced ride from almost start to finish.
3.5 Stars out of 5
Review By Sasha Glenn (Seattle)
“No Escape” follows the nightmarish journey of Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) and his family who become trapped in a warzone where Americans are a prime target. Although it is never specified, it appears the film is possibly set in Cambodia. Jack, a man working for a large company that deals in some way with drinking water, has moved from Texas along with his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two little girls.
The opening scenes reveal a political coup-like situation beginning to unfold rapidly unbeknownst to Jack and his family as they fly into unfamiliar territory. As the family arrives at their hotel, a “calm before the storm” type of feeling settles over the audience. As Annie Dwyer stares out the hotel window her expression exudes the empty feeling one can only experience gazing out at night in a foreign land, unsure of the future and all the decisions which led there.
Very quickly the calm ends and the storm begins. The film moves at fast pace. Once the proverbial shit hits the fan, the audience is kept on edge up until the very end, not knowing who will live or die. As the family tries to run from the madness, the violence is terrifyingly real. The feeling of there being literally no escape is absolutely spine chilling.
Taking on a political undertone, “No Escape” resonates on a human level. It delves into the unrest and turmoil which having limited vital life resources, such as water in this case, can incite in a country and its people. The ruthless killing of Americans and other foreigners during the coup is quite obviously the result of a deep anger catalyzed by a threat to sovereignty felt by a local people.
The casting selection for such a serious and fast moving film is rather interesting. The down to earth, regular guy persona of Owen Wilson works out better than some may expect. He is by far less quirky in this film than in his previous work, which fits for the plot. Pierce Brosnan also stars in the film, as a mysterious badass named Hammond. It may be disappointing that his role is a bit scarcer then some may want or expect. Brosnan, of course, is perfectly able to play this sort of role. However his character conveniently shows up at the right just the right times. Though entertaining, this takes away from the realistic feeling of the plot.
Riddled with unlikely moments and quite ironically unlikely escapes, “No Escape” still achieves what it sets out to do as an action suspense film. I give “No Escape” 3.5 out of 5 stars.