By Thomas Simpson
Owen Wilson isn’t known for actions films. It’s been 14 years since he was trapped Behind Enemy Lines so he seemed a strange choice for the lead in John Erick Dowdle’s No Escape.
Known for his horror films, Dowdle would join his star actor in unfamiliar territory. Early criticism of the movie labelled it as racist and xenophobic, and although I could understand this viewpoint I disagreed with it. Beyond the politics it’s an uncomfortable and tense thriller.
Jack Dwyer (Wilson) is an American engineer who moves his family to an unnamed South Asian country to start a new career. Despite the initial teething problems expected with such a move, life looks like it may be okay for the Dywers – otherwise known as the calm before the storm.
A group of armed rebels stage a violent coup, decimating any opposition in their path with their ire focused on foreigners. Trapped, Dwyer must protect his family and find refuge before the rebels find him.
The opening title of No Escape pays homage to early-90s action films. It sets the tone of what to expect, even if people demand more morality and less stereotypes from movies in the 21st Century.
A throwaway line by Pierce Brosnan’s mysterious Hammond provides perfect exposition and attempts to add balance to proceedings but there is little opportunity to sympathise with the rebels. They’re bloodthirsty savages committing evil and despicable acts. By contrast though, the Dywers are only good guys by default.
Wilson is more than a Hollywood funny man and continues to show here that he’s perhaps an underrated actor. It’s Brosnan who steals the show though as he chews the scenery with vigour in his limited screen time. Lake Bell may seem relegated to damsel in distress as Dwyer’s wife but the whole family are moulded as stereotypes. What’s refreshing is how frustratingly realistic the kids are as their antics put them all in extreme peril.
Dowdle doesn’t shy away from the brutality of his antagonists. He isn’t afraid of showing blood but it’s what he doesn’t reveal that it the most disturbing, as we can hear incredible acts of violence occurring off screen. What we do see isn’t overly graphic, but it is hard hitting and is sure to get the heart rate going.
No Escape makes for some difficult viewing, especially considering recent news stories, but this isn’t meant to be a social commentary and shouldn’t be viewed as one. It’s a solid action thriller that will have you gripped from start to end.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy 41.