No Escape (2015)

7:26 AM

Outrun the Enemy
 No Escape is directed by John Erick Dowdle (As Above, So Below, Devil) and stars Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Cars), Lake Bell (Man Up, In A World...) and Pierce Brosnan (GoldenEye, The Love Punch). "In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape from an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed". No Escape did have quite an effective trailer but it was also released in late August (not a good sign) and hasn't picked up any awards buzz since its release - so is No Escape an underrated gem or is it a disappointing affair? 

So back in March 2015, the trailer for this film was featured as an honourable mention as one of the hottest trailers that week. I said 'Looks like a really good film and is definitely Oscar-bait!' - No Escape is neither of those things. It definitely isn't a terrible film and is quite an enjoyable film but I wouldn't go as far as 'really good'. The film has also not received any awards buzz - it has a 46% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has not even been in the conversation this awards season. I did enjoy No Escape but it is definitely majorly flawed.

The worst thing about the film is that out of our 4 protagonists, 3 of them are extremely dumb and make some stupid decisions. The only character that seems to be level-headed is Owen Wilson's character - his wife and two daughters say things and do things that make you question why they do so. For example, when you are in a building that has just been attacked by a tank, you don't complain about needing to wee or when you are on the edge of a building, you don't complain about being hungry. I know children aren't mature but I am pretty sure these characters would be mature enough to know they are in a life threatening situation. These two daughter characters were incredibly annoying and they continued to make stupid decisions throughout the film - Oh, lets not forget when her dad is trying to save her life and the daughter holds on to his neck which leads to her nearly falling off of a building. The child performances weren't the problem, it was how these characters were written that made them incredibly annoying. The wife played by Lake Bell was mostly tolerable but then towards the end she decides to risk her own life in the stupidest ways which leads to her subjecting herself to horrible things - she tries to become a hero but turns into a damsel in distress for Wilson to save her. Owen Wilson's character generally has quite a realistic and level-headed mindset but towards the end he does become a little dumb which makes 4/4 characters make some really stupid decisions. 

What I will say though that this film was very effective in making it a very realistic and tense watch. Even though the characters were stupid, the actual scenario was all too realistic which made this film quite uncomfortable and scary to watch at times. This isn't a bad thing because it created such a great effect. You can tell John Erick Dowdle has only made horrors before this as typical elements of horror films come in here. This was good as it brought some genuinely tense moments into what could have been quite a bland drama. 

Even though the film felt quite realistic, I do think the story was a little complicated - it took me a while to actually realise why the characters were being targeted and when I did find out, it was just over resources. The event that occurred at the beginning of the film also didn't make much sense and doesn't really add anything to the plot - looking back, I don't know what effect that had? 

Despite having so many flaws, No Escape is a watchable and enjoyable film. I would recommend you watch it just for the discomfort and tension it creates - very effective filmmaking. Another thing going for the film is the performances - they are generally all very good. Lake Bell impressed me the most - she is a very diverse actress - the character we saw in Man Up is unrecognisable here. Bell has talent and is the best thing about this film. Owen Wilson also provides a very solid performance - however, I think he's one of those actors that has such a distinct voice and face that its hard to believe his performance 100% of the time. The young actresses who played the daughters also did a nice job. Despite being the cheesiest character in the film, Pierce Brosnan also had a pretty solid performance - even though I'm pretty sure he was only in this for the paycheque - the reason he's in most movies today. 

No Escape is a solid film - it has pretty strong performances which are let down by how their characters are written - they all make questionable decisions and say silly things. No Escape is very effective at setting mood and tone and makes the whole film discomforting and all too realistic. The film is slightly dated and would have worked better as a 2011 release but that doesn't stop it from being a solid film. There's no need to run, No Escape is worth your time and a solid watch, despite its flaws.


What did you think of NO ESCAPE? Did you question the decisions of these characters? - COMMENT BELOW

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  1. Two-plus years out (I caught this on cable), I absolutely LOVED this film. I didn't question the children's poor decisions because, if you have ever had children at those ages, they are incapable of fully comprehending or appreciating the true horror of such an extraordinary situation. Children at that age are consumed by their own needs and have not developed the capacity for fully adult-level empathy. This grows over time. Whether in such an extreme situation as portrayed here, or standing for three hours in line for a carnival ride, when they have to pee, they have to pee. They cannot appreciate that leaving the line will mean that they will have to start the three hour wait all over again. Just ask any parent.

    So I found that the characters injected some very human realism here, except for the few flaws you mentioned that are a symptom of Hollywood nonsense, such as Lake Bell's character throwing herself into danger needlessly. But these are minor flaws and can be found in all but a few of the very finest movies.

    As for the plot, though it was unarguably trite that a national uprising was centered solely around the national water works, in my mind I excepted this discontent as represented anti-colonialism as a whole, which makes a lot more sense than just being about the water system. And that is something that happens around the world throughout history, so that makes it very believable and sustainable.

    As for those who try to sniff out some xenophobia or implicit racism, I think those comments are more racist than the claims themselves. As I watched this film, I saw a native population rising up against global interests, not "Yellow People" being mean and scary to us "Whites". In other words, I just saw one peoples protecting their interests against another peoples. I didn't see the color of their skin on either side. And to me, the color of their skin on either side is irrelevant.

    Also, if you look at these kinds of wars throughout history, the violence portrayed in the film is, if anything, lightly handled in comparison to history and reality. I appreciated that this kind of real world violence was acknowledged without basking in it. This, unfortunately, is the reality of this world, again and again throughout history. The violence is atrocious, and I have always been mystified how anyone could do such sick and atrocious things to another human being that have happened across the globe.

    I will never understand it, but this film created that reality and dropped us in the middle of it, and the realism, the plausibility, is what made this film particularly affecting.

    Although completely irrelevant at this point, I give this film a 4.5 out of 5. And by the way, Lake Bell's acting, for example when she propped herself against the door? I was utterly moved. She blew me away. Who couldn't feel her utter desperation at that moment, a battle against life and death, and that of her child. This emotional depth of the movie is what sets this film apart from your standard "Action" flick, and it is the only reason I am bothering to write about it at such a late date, and I don't write about film at all, so this definitely moved me in a way that I think any other human being with the capacity for empathy would truly enjoy.