Ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It is a simple premise, but one that has been used successfully many times in films over the years. Alfred Hitchcock used this simple formula expertly throughout his career. No Escape is very much that type of story.
This movie is about Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) who moves his family to an unnamed Asian country because of his work. While they are getting settled in, a revolution breaks out. Jack must figure out a way to evade the massive rebel force and get his family out of the country.
Writer/director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) did a good job with exposition in this movie. In the opening scenes, we learn just enough about the situation to understand and care about it. The trick is to explain the situation without getting wordy and boring with it and that is accomplished here. In fact, the more we know about the situation, the easier it is to nitpick little problems with it. In this story, the whys of the situation are not that important. It is a simple story and Dowdle was smart to tell it as simply as possible. As for the characters, Jack is established very well. I wish a little more had been done to establish his wife (Lake Bell) as a character however.
The best thing I can say for this movie is that it does provide real suspense. There are several very intense moments in the film. There are even scenes where I was not exactly sure that everybody was going to get out unscathed. The best and most intense scene in the movie is the one from the trailer in which they are trying to get from one building to another. Trust me, the trailer does not show enough to spoil it. The scene is done very well and it totally works in every way.
The acting in the movie is pretty good. Owen Wilson does a good job in an unusual role. Lake Bell is good as well and the two have believable chemistry together. The kids are ok, not quite as annoying as they could have been. The show stealing performance is provided by Pierce Brosnan. He is not in the movie all that much but when he is there, he is the best thing going. His character is quite mysterious, but if you are familiar with Roger Ebert’s theory of the economy of characters you will know what purpose he serves immediately.
Way too much shaky cam was used in this movie. I understand that a lot of it is meant to be confusing and disorienting, but when it is making me dizzy, it is too much. There was also quite a bit of overproduction in some of the action sequences, like music and slow motion, that took me out of it a little bit. Most of the action in the movie is not filmed as well as I would have liked. Enough said about that.
This film at times falls into the trap that a lot of movies of this type fall into. There are too many conveniences. There are a couple of scenes that are obviously contrived as a device to put the family in a more suspenseful situation. Also the ending goes about one step too far. There is a very uncomfortable scene at the end that is totally unnecessary.
I wouldn’t normally say this but one big positive this movie has is a very relevant political message. Like with the earlier exposition, they talked just enough about it without revealing too much. It’s not at all preachy but does get the point across and allows you to make a little more sense of what is going on.
This was a pretty decent film. It provided more real and believable suspense than I have seen in a movie in a while. With a few tweeks (less shaky cam antics for instance) it could have been a great movie. Even so, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s a high intensity film with very little downtime that mostly works. The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars.
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