Movie Review: No Escape
Okay, everyone is going to laugh at me, but I really, really enjoyed this movie. It's not just because it was free (thanks AMC Stubs rewards!) or because my fiance (oh yes, did we mention that yet?!) got me popcorn. I legitimately liked the movie.
No Escape is apparently set in Thailand, though they don't actually mention this in the movie; the location is vaguely "Asia," which is somewhat racist on a few levels given the events of the movie...but anyway, it follows two Americans, Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, and their daughters as they are hunted down by rioters.
I'm a sucker for films that follow "normal" people as they get pulled into unusual circumstances that hypothetically (or realistically in some cases) could happen. Those are the type of horror films I like, and the types of action movies; I would much rather watch Liam Neeson use his brain to follow the turns of a car in order to eventually direct himself backwards than watch a vague, deadly virus that turns people to zombies invade a city. No Escape sets up the characters and the setting well, keeps you biting your nails throughout, and employs some interesting cinematography (slow motion, muted sound) that you don't often see in thrillers. This is definitely a popcorn summer movie, but that doesn't mean it should be brushed off as "Owen Wilson's attempt at thrillers." He can do more than crash weddings (ha ha).
Stars: 4 out of 5
What to bring with you: Someone who doesn't mind you grabbing their arm in tension every five seconds
What to leave behind: Your desire to travel anywhere outside of your house in the next 24 hours
No Escape is a tense film, but in the limited and quaint way a mainstream Hollywood film can be tense. There are certain things that are almost always going to be off limits from happening, but the film puts a lot of effort into making you think it might. And sometimes it succeeds. There's a legitimately thrilling scene involving the potential peril of Owen Wilson's two daughters early into the film, and while you know they PROBABLY won't kill off two small children thirty minutes into an action blockbuster, the scene still works. Most of the time the tension feels too manufactured. There is also plenty of extremely convenient and labored last-second miracles that never feel earned.
Politically, the film is pretty icky. This is essentially a zombie movie that uses the poor people in an unspecified Asian country (it's filmed in Thailand but the script goes out of its way to be as vague as possible) as its monsters. There is an extremely insincere throwaway line about how these people attacking the Americans are actually good people trying to protect their families, but this is moments after one of them tries to commit a violent sexual assault, so it's hard to take this gesture very seriously. It's hard to look past the tone deaf nature of this element of the film, but it's essentially just the dressing for the "family in peril" movie. There's no statement here; it's a film searching for a setting to put a family in danger and is clumsy in its execution.
This movie is really about the exhilaration of watching people in an extremely dangerous setting survive against the odds, but it could have been significantly smarter in just about every way. I'm not above the perverse and exploitative fun that comes from watching characters constantly avoid unimaginable terrors, but I wish the film surrounding it was more intelligent, more aware, and more daring. I'll be waiting for Taken 4.
Stars: 2 out of 5.
How does it compare to other "family in peril" movies?
Worse than: All three Taken films.