The new action thriller No Escape might lack credibility, but it contains such insane intensity and heart-pounding action that it takes your breath away. It doesn’t let up for a minute. Owen Wilson might not pop to mind on the list of top action stars, but he is just right for this role of a husband and father who moves his family to an unnamed Asian country in order to take on a key mission involving water supply that the corporation he works for has sent him to accomplish. Quickly he discovers he is the proverbial ugly American as assistance from the world’s most powerful country is not welcomed. Shortly after he and his wife (Lake Bell) and two young daughters arrive, there are riots in the streets by marauding bands of local militant protesters as well as a concentrated attack on foreigners at his swank hotel. It is clear right from the beginning that his associates have gotten wind of the dangers as he can’t find anyone connected with the high-profile job he was sent to help oversee.
As I say in my video review (click the link above), No Escape managed to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I realize that sounds like a well-worn cliche, but in this case it was absolutely true. There are a couple of key set pieces that are simply astounding to watch. The clinching one among them, prominently featured in the film’s TV ads, finds the family trying to take refuge on the hotel’s rooftop with other foreigners — including a mysterious Brit (Pierce Brosnan) who keeps popping up — but find they will only survive if they can get across the street to another rooftop. The only way to do that is to jump. What follows had me shouting back at the screen. It is audacious, and you have to give props to John Erick Dowdle, director and co-screenwriter with Drew Dowdle, for pulling it off, incredulous as it might seem.
The bulk of the movie rarely lets us come up for air as Wilson, Bell and the kids fight for their lives by going from one near-miss to another as they try to flee the country. If you are looking for documentary-style realism, this might not be the movie for you, but for fans of fast-moving action fare it is a must-see and much better than its late-August release slot might indicate. What keeps No Escape grounded is the everyman quality of an all-American family caught up in circumstances beyond their control. You root for them as this roller-coaster ride of a movie steers its course. Toward the end, it does get to be a bit too much (particularly where the kids are involved), but I have to say I had a lot of fun with this. Wilson does a nice job and acquits himself well with the action stuff, as does Bell. In his few scenes, Brosnan is a reassuring and wise presence — someone who might not seem to be exactly who he is but knows the political lay of the land. The movie works well, but check logic and realism at the door. You’ll have a good time. I guarantee it.
Drew Dowdle, David Lancaster and Michel Litvak are producers of the Bold Films production. The Weinstein Company releases the end-of-summer flick Wednesday. Do you plan to see it? Let us know what you think.