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article imageReview: ‘No Escape’ ensnares audiences with a gripping tale of fear Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 26, 2015 in Entertainment
‘No Escape’ is an unnerving thriller about an American family trapped at the centre of a violent revolution in a foreign country.
While moving to another country for work has the potential to be an exciting adventure, it’s also a frightening endeavour. Leaving behind everything that’s familiar for a foreign culture, language and surrounding can be stressful. It’s especially demanding to request your loved ones make this giant, unpredictable leap with you. But in No Escape, an American family moves halfway around the world at what happens to be the worst possible moment.
Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) tried to live the dream but it just didn’t come true. With no other options, he’s forced to accept a position with a multinational corporation in South-East Asia. Uprooting his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), and two daughters, they pack up their lives and prepare to start anew. Upon arriving, it’s not exactly everything for which they’d hoped. An Englishman (Pierce Brosnan) on one of many return trips tries to make their transition a little easier, but the weight of the move is still overwhelming. However in the midst of their arrival and personal frustrations, a coup is being executed and the city is on the verge of becoming a warzone. As foreigners are executed, safety becomes temporary and somewhat illusory as the Dwyers try to find a way out of the country.
The most striking aspect of this film is its authenticity. From the moment the revolutionaries take to the streets, it all feels very real. As Jack tries to manoeuvre his way through the spreading violence, the intensity mounts to tangible proportions. As he becomes more afraid of the chaos swelling around him, the audience experiences the increasing fear with him. He’s forced to make fight and flight decisions in an instant, adapting to the rapidly changing environment. Jack and Annie do everything they can to protect their children, risking their lives and limbs and crossing lines they never thought possible to ensure they will be safe. Jack’s strategy is simple but effective: just stay 10 steps ahead.
Writer/director John Erick Dowdle’s comprehension of horror conventions is a great asset to this picture. He transfers techniques relating to atmosphere, tension and fear to produce a compelling film that exhibits a powerful grip on audiences that gradually tightens as the narrative progresses. Unfortunately it cannot maintain the momentum through the last act. A significant plot development derails the picture’s energy, which is only exacerbated by uncharacteristically poor choices by the characters followed by an overstated section of melodrama.
Wilson isn’t typically thought of as an action hero, but he is well-casted in the role of courageous father. His likeable personality and natural humour lend themselves to the character; however, he’s also convincing as a man who finds hidden strength in the face of danger. Bell also takes a break from comedy in this role. She displays Annie’s frustration with their relocation with sincerity and her reactions to various circumstances are absolutely genuine, saying exactly what anyone would under similar conditions. Brosnan supplies some humour to the story, though his role is awkwardly wedged into the narrative. And in spite of the city acting as an additional character, it is designed to remain anonymous (though the familiar will recognize it to be Thailand, which doesn’t border Vietnam).
Nonetheless, this is a true edge-of-your-seat thriller in which the good overcomes the bad.
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan
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