No Escape – 93min – R
This is not a relaxing film. It stirs up tense moments on so many different political and familial levels. At times I was worried about the family and others worried about the filmmakers. Regardless of the tense moments it seems like a movie that is out of step with today’s understanding of the world. As a yellow light film it was riding right in the middle of good production value but poor story.
Jack (OwenWilson) and Annie Dwyer (Lake Bell) have moved their family to an East Asian Country for Jack’s new Job. They are far from their family and friends, complete strangers in a very dark landscape. Before they land, the government is overthrown in a bloody coup. The angry mob is out to kill the evil Americans who have come to exploit their water. The Dwyer family is running for their lives and get help from an ex secret agent, Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). He sacrifices himself for the family and they fight their way to the safety of Vietnam.
There was a very seedy feel to the story. The setting was generic Southeast Asian country and instead of focusing on any of the cultural richness of the region, it was a mishmash of prostitution, karaoke and old people living in squalor. There could have been just as much anger and rage by the people being exploited without making them out to be the worst people white people imagine about that area of the world. If anything it would have been more terrifying that a culturally rich country could have such violence amongst it.
The craft of filmmaking was great. The camera work and the scenes were well constructed to make you uncomfortable during the escape and the fighting. There are some good perspective shots that put you in the action and in the same hiding places. They also construct situations that will put you on edge. The scene where they have to ride a moped through a mob on the street in clothes they have taken off of people that have been killed by the angry mob is very tense. There was a moment that could have been better used. His bike falls over and he gets help picking it up by a guy who kind of recognizes him but doesn’t. It would have been better to have the guy who helps him is someone who he helped earlier. Say a man on the street is moving sacks of rice and Jack helps him pick up a few bags as he is going to the store for a newspaper.
The lack of blended storytelling makes this film seem very one dimensional. They have absolutely no depth to the characters or the plot. However the use of slow motion scenes and the angles used for some of the shots were great at inducing anxiety. I am not a fan of handheld shots, but in the chaos of a coup it does as designed and gives you a very uncomfortable feel. The pacing of the film is great you go from high action to quiet sneaking and back to high action, but it doesn’t remove any of the tension. Walking out of the film I was finally relaxed that it was over.
Ultimately this film will fall into obscurity and do nothing for the people who made it. The director (John Erick Dowdle) has a good eye for filmmaking but now needs to pair up with a great writer. What would be your dream team for a director and writer combo?