No Escape, which follows an American family trying to survive in an unnamed Asian country after a violent coup, is another entry in that rather dubious
unofficial sub-genre that focuses on the plight of privileged white Westerners in a disaster-struck third world country while barely acknowledging the
locals caught up in the same situation (see also The Impossible).
In its favour it barely pauses for breath long enough for you to dwell on that imbalance too much as John Erick Dowdle delivers a gripping and tense
thriller for the most part.
That oddly turns out to be both its main flaw and its biggest virtue. As it is almost constantly on the move, the weaknesses are easier to overlook.
Unsurprisingly when it does briefly pause for breath it is noticeably less assured. The downside of this relentless pace is that the local natives are
either one dimensional bloodthirsty killing machines (and at one point, potential rapists) or faceless corpses. There's no interest in their side of the
A late speech by Pierce Brosnan's character that tries to paint Western capitalist companies as the bad guys and the violent locals as parents similar to
the central characters also just trying to protect their own children, is both too little too late and not entirely convincing.
If you can overlook all that (and plenty will) and judge it on its merits as a thriller, then it's a little harder to dismiss.
The set pieces and confrontations are expertly executed, the kind of scenes that terms like 'nail-biting' and 'holding your breath' were coined for. Years
working on horror films like Quarantine and So Above, So Below that threw characters into similar if more fantastical situations, serves Dowdle well here
in terms of atmosphere and maintaining a constant state of fear and dread. Though while one dimensional monsters can work in that genre, here it's a little
Atypical Hollywood casting turns out to be surprisingly effective as well. Both Owen Wilson and Lake Bell are better known for their more comedic roles,
which makes their transformation into desperate characters willing to do whatever they can to protect their family all the more interesting. In contrast
Pierce Brosnan gets a role with more humour than you'd expect as a shady Cockney who comes to the aid of the family on more than one occasion. He's clearly
enjoying the chance to play a larger than life character and the film picks up a little whenever he's on screen chewing up the scenery. Sadly that isn't
Morally dubious with a fair few plot holes and contrivances, No Escape is nonetheless a competent and efficient thriller that does exactly what it sets out
to do and does it well. Some will find it easier to overlook the slightly nasty taste it leaves in the mouth afterwards more than others however.