No Escape 2015 Review: A film you’d want to recoil from taking seriously.
The whites-in-peril thriller No Escape set in an unnamed country is essentially World War Z with Asians.
The plot summaries given on the BBFC website only aim to give the broadest of broad-brush pointers towards what each film holds in store. Through no virtue of its own. The one for No Escape (Khong Loi Thoat) is unusually comprehensive. “No Escape is a thriller in which a US family relocating to south-east Asia become caught in a violent coup against the ruling regime.”
The astonishing thing about the film – genuinely.
It boggles the mind – is that no additional context, during the 103 minutes that unfold, is actually provided. Or at least none about the country, or the coup, or the regime, or any of that. You might expect the filmmakers to have at least picked a country: south-east Asia has a dozen or so to choose from, palpably distinct from each other in culture, language and politics. But Thailand, where the movie was shot, goes pointedly unnamed. The only specific information we get is about Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson). And his failed businesses, and his wife Annie (Lake Bell), and their arrival to begin a new life.
The thinking, presumably, is that keeping things as generalised as possible will dodge any charge of exploiting real, perturbing political circumstances for crude multiplex thrills. We wouldn’t want that. But the thinking is colossally misjudged. When a generic, bloodthirsty mob take to these all-purpose streets and hurl any old weaponry at riot police. Without even the benefit of subtitles to explain the nature of their grievance. The film’s gargantuan misstep becomes obvious. It’s essentially World War Z with Asians.
Like Brad Pitt in the early stages of that zombie blockbuster. Wilson is playing a flaxen-haired father of two girls, who must clamber up to their hotel’s rooftop to escape the seething hordes on the street, and hope for deliverance by helicopter. Down there, we are meant to be dealing with angry human beings, not sickening revenants with a craving for human flesh. But from the persistent avoidance of close-ups and generally hysterical staging, it’s far from obvious.
No Escape is a film you’d want to recoil from taking seriously.
So it’s almost a relief that its bungled execution makes this actively impossible. There’s a laughable moment when Wilson interrupts a conference meeting, still going on as planned within the hotel, even though hundreds of dissidents are already baying outside, chucking bricks and Molotov cocktails through the foyer glass. The movie reaches a peak of absurdity up on that roof. When the Dwyer family pick an adjacent building as their route to safety. And Wilson flings his own squealing kids across a gap the width of an alleyway. Even Bruce Willis in Die Hard might have struggled to stop his audience erupting into guffaws with this plan.
Because the film’s not quite finished with being ludicrous. And Bell’s grittily panicked performance is almost threatening to pull focus from the surrounding folly, Pierce Brosnan tags along as an enigmatic fellow traveller whose battle scars, karaoke skills and whisky-soaked Estuary accent mark him out as having been around the block. We’re just not sure which block. The general block. Let’s try an even tighter précis: No Escape is a whites-in-peril thriller in which thrills happen in Asia. Because of Asians. It’s insane.