John Erick Dowdle’s No Escape

There may not be much of a, shall we say, culturally tactful or sociopolitically subtle premise behind No Escape, but I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t an almost unbearably suspenseful, purely nightmarishly effective thriller. Owen Wilson and Lake Bell play a wealthy American couple on a business trip to some unnamed southeast Asian country that is going through kind of a rough patch, politically and economically. When the hotel they are staying in is stormed by a citizen’s army of ruthless, barbaric rebels staging an infrastructure-shattering coup, they are forced to flee through the dangerous streets of the city with no law enforcement or anyone to help them, save for one British intelligence agent played by Pierce Brosnan, an undercover operative who does his best to help them amidst the chaos of a country turning itself inside out. Now, I see from this director’s filmography that his work is almost all in the horror genre so far, which makes sense because this film is so punishingly, exhaustively suspenseful and tense that it could almost be classified as horror itself. The rebels are a terrifying, almost inhuman threat around every corner and are both willing and capable of inflicting frightening atrocities, as this family dodges them at every turn. If I were this director though I would have mayhaps lent my talents to a better, more tasteful script though, and here’s why: Wilson and his kin barely register as characters of their own, but rather blank, terrified chess pieces being frantically shunted across the board of pre-constructed dangers with no real agency or unpredictability of their own. The rebels are a faceless army of homicidal, rape inclined psychos and we get zero grasp on their cause or agenda beyond hunting this family down at al costs. The city they’re in doesn’t even have a name, and that’s how much this script cares for specificity or nuance. The only believable, well rounded character is Brosnan’s guilt ridden agent, he brings an obligatory Bond-esque charisma to the role while retaining this sort of haggard, world weary resolve too and is actually quite good. But his character and the unbelievable talents of the director in generating horrific suspense could have been put to use in a much better setting, premise and story beyond ‘white American family is brutalized by savage Asians in a crumbling third world.’

-Nate Hill

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