Title: No Escape (2015)
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Runtime: 103 minutes
The Dywer family moves from Austin, Texas, to a fake Asian country (No Escape was filmed in Thailand, but they go out of their way to make sure you know these characters are not in Thailand). Sadly, they happen to arrive just in time for a coup that sees Americans being targeted, and now they are on the run from some crazy people with guns.
At no point does No Escape feel confident in its own source material. The plot is paper thin and oddly structured. Pierce Brosnan plays a British man who happens to be staying at the same resort as the Dwyer family. Every scene he is in is comical, most likely intentionally, and his accent is super thick. The Dwyer family is made up of a mother (Lake Bell), a father (Owen Wilson) and two little girls. The girls are obnoxious and annoying. They are used for the sole purpose of making you worry, and have no other purpose in the film. There is no chemistry between Bell and Wilson, but, thankfully, the script (probably a re-write) offers up a reason for them to not exactly “sync up”.
Director John Erick Dowdle (Devil; As Above, So Below) loves backwards Steadicam shots, and extreme close-up facial shots during action scenes. Every time there is a fist fight, the camera is tossed around, and the audience has no idea what is happening. Not only that, but it’s constantly in the actor’s faces, and bounces around. This is more obvious during the hotel scenes, and the main reason this is a problem is because Dowdle edits the shots so that there are no smooth transitions. So it’s not only an awkward angle, but it also jostles you out of the scene when Dowdle quick cuts to another shot. There’s an action scene near the end that leaves the viewer dumbfounded because it bounces around so much. This is a shame because those action scenes are the main draw for most people to see this film.
At no point can you take No Escape seriously. For example, the “just pee yourself” scene: no one ever asks the character if they can just hold it. Instead, it’s immediately to “just pee yourself”. The scene gets even stranger when Owen Wilson’s character tells her that he loves her as she wets herself. Then there is the very important scene from the trailer where he throws his children from one building to another, across a large gap. It’s almost as absurd as everyone using the “Tom Cruise Run” to navigate each set piece we need to visit. Weirdly enough, the film has about five set pieces, and the plot is setup the same way each time, and ends the same way each time. Each one is a carbon copy of what happened ten minutes earlier.
I went in to No Escape not expecting a whole lot, and I only saw it because it was a free advance screening. The crowd was mostly middle-aged white people, which is the target audience. But anyone who enjoys Liam Neeson’s Taken series will probably like No Escape. The audience showed their enjoyment of the film by letting out audible gasps as when the kids were put into danger. For me, it just added to the comical effect, and made me laugh, which I guess means I am not this film’s target audience.
After it’s all said and done, No Escape is a fairly competent film with nothing to say, and nothing new to bring to the table. It’ll fill your need until we get Taken 4, or whatever new project Neeson is working on, just don’t go in expecting anything new for the “Family in Peril” genre.