A Movie Review on No Escape
I must admit, getting tickets to an advanced screening of No Escape had me quite excited. Although I knew very little about the movie going in, the trailer had definitely piqued my interests. I have become a huge fan of the Dowdle brothers over the years (who co-wrote the movie with John Erick Dowdle directing) and the idea of Owen Wilson returning to do a dramatic role also had my interest. Wilson began his career with a couple of dramatic roles, but has since stuck with the raunchy, screwball comedy that launched his career into A-list status. He has faltered over the past few years with his last good film(IMO) being Midnight in Paris directed by Woody Allen.
On the other side of the camera The Dowdle brothers, John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, have made a name for themselves within the horror community with films like The Poughkeepsie Tapes (a film that's still quite hard to find to this day), the REC remake Quarantine, Devil, and their most recent horror film As Above, So Below. While their remake of REC failed to live up to the originals tension and terror, their other films were above-average, if not great, additions to the horror genre. The Poughkeepsie Tapes was a sadistic, violent look into the life of a serial killer. Devil, based on a story by M. Night Shaymalan was a a decent supernatural horror flick about a group of people trapped inside of an elevator with the Devil. Lastly, their most recent horror flick, As Above, So Below, based around the Paris catacombs, was not well received by both critics and general audiences alike, but found passionate fans among the horror community, myself included.
No Escape, originally titled The Coup, opens with a tension filled scene leading to the assassination of a south-east Asian Prime Minister, and continues to ramp up tension and suspense until the final hold-your-breath moments of the film. John Erick Dowdle, who co-wrote and directed the film, masterfully crafts scene after scene of high-stakes terror and tension, as Jack Dwyer (played by Owen Wilson) and his family find themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and must stay "10 steps ahead" of a ruthless rebel leader who is mercilessly killing foreigners. Though classified more as a drama/thriller than a horror film, what the Dwyer family witnesses going on around them, and what they must go through to try to survive is more terrifying than what many horror films have to offer. I've never felt so stressed watching a film than I have watching this one. The violence is brutal, and hits hard, feeling all too realistic at times. It's a true testament to the filmmakers on their ability to create and realize such a horrific series of events, and create characters that we truly care about.
Although the movie's tension and terror has a fierce grip on you throughout, it's the Dowdle brother's ability to create characters you can sympathize with and care about that's the strength, and center, of the film. Many films similar to No escape fail to create characters that audiences can connect to and care about. When these characters are then dropped into dangerous situations the audiences are not as emotionally invested as they could be, destroying any chances of creating real palpable tension. No Escape excels in that you understand John Dwyer's desire to create a better life for his family, even if that means moving them halfway across the world, and the love he has for them. There is a moment half way through the movie that shows the lengths John will go just keep his family safe. It's a powerful moment that creates the thought "Would I be able to do that in order to keep my loved ones safe?" His wife Annie, played by the wonderful Lake Bell, transcends typical Hollywood stereotypes and steps up as a powerful female protagonist, complementing her husbands desire to keep themselves and their two children safe.
Owen Wilson shines as John Dwyer, a character we are not familiar with him playing. Most people only know him from his comedies (Wedding Crashers is probably the first movie that comes to mind with people), and will see the trailer and think "I can't picture him doing something like this". A similar thing happened recently when Vince Vaughn was cast as one of the main actors in the second season of True Detective. It's a step outside of their usual roles, though Wilson could not have been more perfect. He brings just the right balance of emotional depth and chemistry that makes the character connect so well with the audience. Wilson is able to show us exactly what kind of range he has as an actor, and it's impressive. The role of Annie was originally set to go to Michelle Monaghan, but after a change with the production company, Lake Bell signed on for the role. She filled the role of strong female lead with ease, jumping back and forth between being a gentle caring mother to her two little girls, to being a woman willing to do whatever it takes to protect her children and husband. Wilson and Bell both provide us with performances worthy of recognition.
While only appearing in a handful of scenes, Pierce Brosnan's character Hammond is an integral part of the movie, aiding the Dwyer family in their attempt to escape the now hostile and dangerous region. Brosnan delivers in his role as Hammond, bringing what we've all come to expect from him as an actor. There is a moment in the film, where Hammond explains his reasons for being in the region, that you can't help but chuckle at, drawing comparisons to one of his earlier, more popular roles. It would be a sin not to mention the amazing job Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare do in their roles as Lucy and Breeze Dwyer, the daughters of John and Annie. They provide such an innocence to the film as their characters are unable to fully grasp what is happening around them.
With No Escape the Dowdle brothers skillfully craft one family's terrifying struggle to survive, creating moment after moment of heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat tension. Owen Wilson and Lake Bell anchor the film with two characters that you will undoubtedly care for, as they try to keep themselves, and their two little girls, alive.
No Escape releases worldwide on August 25th 2015.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Written by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle
Starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Sterling Jerins, and Claire Geare
Rated R. Runtime: 103 Minutes