“No Escape” will have you on the edge of your seat in suspense one minute, and then leaned back with a puzzled look on your face the next.
Moving to a new place can be hard. Moving to a new country with a new language and culture can be even harder. But moving to a new country in the middle of a coup is the worst.
That’s what Jack (Owen Wilson), Annie (Lake Bell) and their kids Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) learn in “No Escape.”
There is no doubt that “No Escape” is a tense thriller. Every step this poor family takes is never enough to get away from danger. Bullets fly, bombs explode, people get beaten and executed in the most brutal ways, and it’s all way too close for comfort.
Throughout it all, Jack tries to lead his family to safety even though he’s not sure where that is. I wasn’t sure if Wilson, normally known for more comedic roles, could pull off such a sharp turn to the dramatic side. But he does. You know from watching him, his actions, expressions and tone of voice that it is very serious and very real. The same goes for Bell.
The script is also smart in taking away things that might help the characters to safety. Obstacles include language barriers, no phones, Internet or weapons, all of which serve to heighten the conflict and prolong it.
However, there are a few things that don’t work.
There is far too much slow-motion. In the first hour, anytime something slightly tense happens the movement slows down to a crawl and it stays that way for far too long. Maybe it was done to stretch out the suspense as long as possible, but it happened for minutes on end. Besides, it’s a fairly common film rule that speeding things up, rather than slowing them down, increases tension.
Also, as the film progresses things start to fall faster than the unnamed Asian country in which the story takes place. And the setting is part of the problem.
We don’t know where these characters are, who they are, what they’re doing there or why there is a coup. There’s enough answers to keep the audience from being completely confused, but not enough to satisfy. It could be that the silence is because the characters themselves don’t have all the answers, but the questions disconnect the audience from the story.
And it’s unclear what exactly the message of the film is, if there is one at all. Sometimes it feels like it’s saying “other countries are scary, don’t ever leave the U.S. You will die.”
“No Escape” is a mixed bag. There are parts that are really good, like the acting, and parts that are not, like the overall world in which the story takes place.
Give it a shot, but watch at your own risk.