No Escape is a classic “what would you do if this were you” thriller. There are no superheroes, robots or otherworldly characters. There are no tough guy cops or mobsters. Just a family stuck in a foreign city that is being ransacked by rebels staging a coup. Nail bitingly suspenseful and well paced, this B movie styled thriller works on three strengths.
First, the casting of Owen Wilson as the unlikely heroic dad. Here is the comedy star’s second serious role(next to Behind Enemy Lines)and it’s a slam dunk decision. When the trailers came out, people were shaking their head at the front and center part given to the Texas guy with the crooked nose, wacky sense of humor and mostly one speed resume. However, people forget what the role required. An everyman who we didn’t expect to fight and that’s where Wilson thrives. He has pocketed emotion and unsettling rage on display here. He’s going to surprise you. Don’t forget the man brought a country to tears in Marley and Me and was very fine in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. He can do more than comedy and he shows his skills here, playing a husband and father of two daughters who just needs to get them to safety.
Second, Lake Bell is equally effective as the wife and mother. This isn’t just a damsel in distress. This momma won’t be trifled with and it’s a fun experience watching Bell go from overworked and tired wife to survival mode queen bee. Bell is an experienced actress who can play many speeds. A poor woman’s Rachel McAdams with more depth. She blazes a quiet trail here as the ying to Wilson’s yang. They make a great convincing seemingly hopeless couple. It really makes the film run full bore.
Third, Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle(an experienced horror director with As Above, So Below, Quarantine, Devil) brings the violence and thrills right up to the bridge of your nose. The gunshots sound real and ring around the theater. The explosions are unsettling. The surprises in this easy to digest story raise the stakes just right and the suspense isn’t overbearing yet chilling. He doesn’t shy away from a good kill or a gruesome end for a main character. It’s all out and in your face.
Stop worrying about why the film was delayed and just enjoy the thrills. The pacing is excellent, and the slow motion shots work better here than in most films. As he displayed in the underrated Devil, Dowdle knows how to put your fingernails into your mouth, get your tendencies as a filmgoer broiling and turn up the tension. There are sequences in No Escape that just make you move right up to the edge of your seat.
Pierce Brosnan showing up as a seemingly friendly yet mysterious adventure ally adds an extra kick to the film. This is the first time I can remember the actor actually having fun with a role and showing some shades of his James Bond days. The gray beard, sharp wit, easy going charm and action mobility haven’t been dazed with age yet when it comes to the 62 year old Irishman and it helps the film run when the original tank of gas gets low.
All in all, you won’t see No Escape coming. The Weinstein Company seemed to dump it at the end of the summer season because they didn’t know how to properly market it. The shoot saw some delays and it wasn’t a smooth operation but what Dowdle, Wilson, Bell and Brosnan carved out here is an enjoyable suspenseful potboiler. If you take a chance with it, the payoff is there.
Instead of doodling with a sequel in Sinister 2 or a clumsy video game film in Agent 47, place a bet on No Escape, an action film that aims to please, thrill and keep things moving. Right before the heavy hitters step up to the plate in September, this old school thriller will settle in just right and just might floor you.