Director: John Erick Dowdle
Starring: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Tanapol Chuksrida
Rated: R (strong violence including a sexual assault, and for language)
In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape from an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.
By Matt Greene
Some movies’ failures are noble. Maybe their ambitions exceed their reach; they strive for uniqueness but lose their identity along the way. No Escape is the opposite; much of its failures come from it being utterly familiar. It’s like a bad Xerox of so many other more successful thrillers: it’s Captain Phillips without the writing chops or strong social awareness; it’s San Andreas without the entertainment spectacle or needed humor; it’s Die Hard without the skill or fun. This pandering and manipulative rip-off is a dour, dull, joyless and miserable experience that I wish had an earlier escape.
No Escape takes-off as an ultra-bland 90s-thriller throwback, down to even the font of the title card. Once it gets going, the Paul-Greengrass-eque shaky cam takes over and eventually leads the movie from boring to just plain bad. The emotional manipulation through faulty slow motion and shameful use of scared children is unforgivable, only matched by the awful characters. Each are only pawns for horrifying things to happen to. Brosnan, a paradigm of lazy storytelling, is less a person and more a predictable and lazy screenwriting tool. With clearly no real thought or effort put into him, he basically serves as a walking, coincidental miracle.
Only a few aspects actually work. Wilson and Bell are both more than capable, and are clearly trying their best bring humanity to the terror. Also, the big Hollywood-based score with flourishes of its setting’s culture is actually pretty great. Unfortunately, it’s all stuck in an otherwise xenophobic and bland bag of cinema popcorn, leaving any positives lost under one of the worst films of 2015.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
Here is a film that is dramatically stilted, racist, and xenophobic, and all three in absurd, unconscionable spades. The movie follows a white, American family who arrive in an Asian country just in time to be swept up in a violent political revolt. The premise screams xenophobia but the execution provides a megaphone. Forget vacationing out of the country, “No Escape” wants you to know you’re probably unsafe to go grocery shopping in the neighboring town.
The Asian country wherein the nonsense takes place is Cambodia, it seems. That’s an assumption based purely on geography explained late in the film as it’s never stated. Being broadly Asian rather than specifically Cambodian (or Thai, etc.) becomes racially and narratively problematic. There are exactly three characters in the film that are given any sort of voice and they are played by the only three white Hollywood actors. None of the Asians have a voice at all save for one who likens himself to Kenny Rogers. It’s supposed to be a comic gag but his entire character becomes a reduction to the whitest man we’ve ever heard on the radio.
There are also copious problems when we think about the nameless revolution itself. This might be the most politically charged movie not to have any political stance. It creates an atmosphere of national unease for a nation without a presented identity; it presents a people-group as terror inducing villains without knowing any real details about what they are fighting for or against.
It’s pandering, exploitative, manipulative, monotonous, and downright stupid, but setting aside the intolerance-against-nobodies and be-afraid-of-everybodies, we are still left without real drama. “No Escape” isn’t just a bad movie–though it is certainly that–it’s an unhealthy life experience.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars