Imagine getting a job at a new company recently after your personal business failed to succeed. Imagine, once again, that said company sends you to a backwater country that (quickly) gets attacked by rebels soon after arriving because they are tired of being controlled by the interests of other nations. Finally, imagine that those rebels are targeting you and claiming that you are a person worth hunting and killing because the company you work for represents the interests of said nations. You’re probably in for a long day and having your family in tow does not help anything as you have to both stay alive, a feat that would be hard enough alone, but keep them alive also. Worry not! You do not need to imagine– just watch Owen Wilson in his newest film No Escape.
This is mostly listed in the above paragraph, so I will keep this brief: Newly hired Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is moving overseas for his company with his family. Upon arrival they find themselves in a country that is in the middle of a coup d’etat. Natives recently assassinated their prime minister for aligning himself more with foreign interests than with the interests of his own country and, said assassins, are essentially killing anyone and anything in their path.
Jack and his wife, Annie (Lake Belle), flee their hotel room and head for the roof to stay alive– but there is no safe place. They find themselves in equal or more danger than before as the enemy has a chopper and more rebels are about to breakthrough. Jack decides to go to the next roof, having to throw his children over to accomplish this, and head for the American Embassy. They avoid gunfire and slaughter to get there.
But they find the embassy in shambles and see rebels leave the building followed by the embassy exploding. They are left with only one option: run and stay alive.
Alright… simply put…. I liked it and didn’t like it? Certain parts were executed extremely well while other fall short and are bit predictable. The film does a good job of keeping you in suspense, many scenes will have you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see if the family will live or die in a particular situation. You literally feel stressed out throughout this film from beginning to end as you stay in perpetual suspense.
Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a British spy that helps the family out of some serious situations, is a great character and probably one of the
best parts of this film. Which is both good and bad as he is barely in the film…honestly, he might have 15 whole minutes of screen time? But he steals the show for those whole 15 minutes! Brosnan balances both drunken foreigner and bad-ass killer very well and stays likable at both ends of that spectrum. *Spoiler* He even goes out in spectacular fashion.
Owen Wilson and Lake Belle’s also had strong, believable on-screen chemistry, which can be hard to pull off given the story. Many similar stories you see the main couple fight way too much to the point of making the audience think…”do they even like each other?” You do not question the strength of their relationship, the love they have for their family, or the bonds they all share throughout the film. Owen, in particular, did a fine job of being in a serious role. Honestly, I wish he would do more, his dramatic roles or action roles are some of the best performances of his career.
We have seen films like this before, however, and the biggest issue with this film is that it lands itself directly in the middle of those types by doing very little original. In stories like this where a man is facing peril and has to keep his family out of harms way, we inevitably have to sit through two hours of the protagonist having to argue with his family and explain things to the point of exhaustion. Here is a hint… if your husband runs into the hotel room sweating bullets, literally and figuratively, and tells you that there are men with guns killing people and we need to leave, you LEAVE. Do not ask question or pressure him for more information, you’re just giving the bad guy more time to find you and kill you.
And that is one of the biggest issues with family disaster films, I HATE the family… every time. Not just because the family nag the protagonist every step they can. Not because they need things explained to them every step of the way. Not because, unlike the protagonist, they lack any sort of common sense. Simply because I feel like the family, in such films, are used merely as generic suspense builders. They stall the protagonist, giving the bad guys more chances to kill them and they make stupid decisions making a crappy situation worse. This happens in EVERY family disaster film and it is becomes a bit too formulaic for my taste.
The director was also a bit heavy-handed with the slow-motion in the film. Every other scene was in slow motion and, in cases like the roof-jumping sequence, it happens multiple times in one scene. It took you out of the film after a while and was very distracting. Not every scene needs to have a slow-motion sequence and odds are if you have Owen Wilson walking in slow-motion it would just confuse the audience rather than make the scene feel dramatic.
Plot (out of 20)
There is very little unique to the plot, in a basic sense, it is just a disaster-film gone local. What I do like about is that you slowly get to see why the rebels are doing what they are doing. Their plight and cause are, in the end, sympathetic. Additionally, most disaster family films have to run away from vague danger that is un-targeted. While the family is in danger, there isn’t a specific enemy and they aren’t a specific target. That is not the case with this film, the rebels are chasing Owen Wilson because of the company he represents, and they make it a point to let him know that they are specifically going to kill him. 15/20
Characters (out of 20)
Hammond and Jack are done really well in this film given their respective roles. Hammond is a convincing and likable spy and Jack, at no point, betrays his family (unless you count him throwing his daughter off a roof seconds after telling her that he was not going to) and stays the likable family man even after having to kill people to stay alive. He generally stays level-headed and that is what I like to see from a protagonist in a film like this. Floundering and second-guessing in a disaster film makes you hope the character doesn’t survive because he is, well, stupid. Hammond should have been used more in the film as well as he steals the scenes he is in and I would watch a film just about him. I dislike the children in this film because, like I stated above, they’re in the film merely to add suspense for suspenses-sake. And, let’s be honest, they’re cute until the bullets start flying and then they’re just annoying after that. 10/20
Acting (out of 20)
Storytelling (out of 30)
The film was paced extremely well as it took breaks from action at the right times, but through you right back into it before you got bored. They also did a good job of dangling the motives of the rebels throughout the film and not revealing it too soon. It kept you interested if for no other reason than to find out their motives. 25/30
Ad-Campaign (out of 10)
Having Owen Wilson in a serious role piqued my interest in the film more than the trailer did. So, while I can’t give them full points as the trailer wasn’t great, they do deserves an ad-bump for casting the right guy. 5/10