“No Escape” is the latest in a string of new action-thrillers and it stars Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan. Wilson plays a family man from Texas who moves his wife and two young daughters to Southeast Asia to begin a new career. However, not long after arriving, they are caught directly in the middle of a violent citizens uprising and they must fight for survival.
Admittedly, I had low expectations for No Escape. To me, it appeared to be a retread of several other films (World War Z sans zombies) simply set in a unique location. However, my expectations were far surpassed and I was pleasantly surprised to find that No Escape is a unexpectedly well-made action film.
The film takes no time to get going, with the first scene drawing viewers in immediately. Despite all the well-choreographed fight scenes throughout the film, the most deftly handled scenes come in the first fifteen minutes. During that time, all of the major players are introduced (only six), we get just enough background on all of them to understand their motives and character traits/flaws, and there is an ever-so-slight sense of impending doom (and not only because I saw the trailer!). This “calm before the storm” was the most important part of No Escape, and possibly kept it from being just a cliché-ridden thriller.
Another surprisingly strong aspect of No Escape was the acting. The four key actors – Wilson, Bell, and their kids – spent almost all of their screen time together, saving Wilson the need to carry the film on his own. And there to help him was Hollywood’s new go-to child actress, Sterling Jerins (World War Z, The Conjuring, And So It Goes, Dark Places, and many more). Jerins (age 11) played a crucial role in keeping the family dynamic alive during the “take-a-breather” scenes between major action sequences.
On his first seemingly major film production, director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, As Above So Below) doesn’t let any element get lost in the shuffle. While most directors would be overwhelmed on such a huge production, Dowdle gets almost everything right – crafting a well-paced and consistently tense film that is more realistic than most. And where most films in this vein require a significant suspension-of-disbelief, No Escape feels frighteningly real.
Overall, No Escape is a shockingly good action film that far exceeded all expectations I had going in. Well-shot, well-written, and – at most times – masterfully executed, No Escape is a bright star in a sky full of dumbed down, carbon-copy action-thrillers. This isn’t to say that there are no flaws – there certainly are a few – but consider this a rare chance to actually enjoy an action film without feeling cheated. Go see this one.
4 out of 5