An American family finds itself being chased by a murderous mob in the midst of a foreign coup in John Erick Dowdle’s action thriller No Escape.
After getting a new job with an American engineering firm abroad, Jack (Owen Wilson) and his family — wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) — relocate to an unspecified Southeast Asian country. Upset about the upheaval but hoping to forge a better future for themselves, they make their way overseas, but soon realise they have landed in the middle of a violent revolution.
Armed rebels descend like a tsunami of death and destruction, pulverising everything and everyone in their path. The onslaught is relentless and the tension never lets up. The result is both thrilling and exhausting. Jack and his family are put through all kinds of harrowing ordeals. Even though the story at its core isn’t very inventive, the fast-paced, gripping action makes the movie an intense watch. Solid performances delivered by Wilson and Bell also help make the narrative more effective. Pierce Brosnan — appearing in the role of an English expat who befriends the protagonists — is stuck portraying a character whose arc is quite predictable, but still plays the part with zeal nonetheless.
Despite the suspense and stellar acting, No Escape doesn’t come together quite like it should have. The movie falters in its half-hearted attempt at humanising the locals. Viewers are asked to invest in the fate of one Western family, while the situation of the natives is given only a cursory explanation. Their predicament and revolt against unchecked foreign business interests is never fully fleshed out, nor are they given a chance to appear as anything but sadistic murderers hell-bent on killing all seemingly-innocent people they come across.
Overall, No Escape’s promising premise is marred by an uneven execution and a seemingly prejudiced worldview. Still, if you can look past its unconvincing political commentary, you have to admit that the movie is undeniably thrilling. Had this intensity been wrapped in a better story and delivered through stronger characters, the film could have been a lot more interesting and entertaining.
Sameen Amer is a Lahore-based freelance writer and critic. She tweets @Sameen
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015.