Traveling abroad to build a new life in a new country can present loads of issues that staying in your home country may not. You obviously need to learn the customs, the laws, the practices and the language if you want to make yourself a true part of the new community that you’re becoming a part of. That’s usually what you have to grasp, but if you move into a place during the wrong time, you may end up in a dire scenario like the family in No Escape does.
This film stars Owen Wilson as Jack Dwyer, an American business man who moves his wife (Lake Bell) and two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare) to an unnamed country in Southeast Asia sitting directly across from Vietnam. The plan is to start fresh there as a unit, but things quickly go wrong once a rebellious militant body causes a violent upheaval against the native politicians. Without much thought, the American is forced to look for a safe haven in an unsafe nation if he wants his young family to survive.
From the sounds of the description and the name, it’s clear to see what the filmmakers of No Escape want out of the story. Especially during the early scenes when everything starts to break out, there’s some interesting stuff going on that creates some tense moments rarely seen in film. You feel it and believe it. That’s hard to accomplish, but it’s executed remarkably well here.
These scenes made me even more interested in what was to come during the rest of the film, but the tone and sense of danger that is so captivating doesn’t hold up at all. After a while, I slowly started to settle down as I began to understand what kind of movie I was watching. Outside of the initial build up that’s so amazing, nothing else works. One of the primary reasons for that is because No Escape is something that tells us that the only people that matter are the members of the family.
We all know that the Dwyers are at the center of what’s going on, but everyone else is here simply to serve as a resting place for the bullets and machetes of the rioters as their sole purpose is to add to the film’s necessary body count. This makes it predictable and lifeless since no one else is important and aren’t even made to seem like humans with lives or personalities.
Even Pierce Brosnan is just in No Escape to be a helping hand while he’s onscreen. He literally shows up in the first scene they’re all introduced in helping them out. In order to make this work with his character, they could have given him a reason why he wanted to protect them and assist them, but we never get it. Doing so would have given him more purpose and made what we’re watching seem more believable.
This kind of stuff is necessary to create a film that draws in audiences while making them care. Once that primary surge of angst, fear and anxiety goes away, we’re left with those adult characters that don’t make you care. The only two people you’ll find yourself caring about at all are the two young girls. I think it’s natural for most of us to care for kids, so including them was a pretty intelligent thing to do. In spite of their being no real sense of danger, you may be able to still have some compassion for them.
When looking at the action in No Escape, much of it is predictable. There’s even a scene that is eerily similar to something I saw in another Owen Wilson film that came out years earlier entitled Behind Enemy Lines. Unlike No Escape, I actually enjoyed that 2001 release starring Owen Wilson as a rebellious pilot trapped in enemy territory. Even though we ultimately know how it’s going to turn out, they were able to make that movie entertaining throughout the whole time.
In the end, No Escape fails because the people behind it don’t know how to make a film that can captivate an audience. If they take what they have in the early scenes and apply to an entire film, they could have something terrific to push out to the masses. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get that movie. Instead, all we got is No Escape. If these guys hang around, maybe they can learn from their mistakes, because it looks as if they have some potential for growth.
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Film Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2015
Distributor: The Weinstein Company