By: Kevin Jordan
Or is there?
About halfway through No Escape, I was ready to walk out of the theater. Up to that point in the film, people were slaughtering other people with no explanation, Pierce Brosnan had vanished from the film, and the plot was nothing more than “Run, Owen, Run!” Basically, we were watching a snuff film with decent casting. The only thing keeping me in my seat was the knowledge that Brosnan had to show up at some point and, despite the seemingly pointless and definitely gratuitous violence, it was the tensest film I’d seen since 2013’s The Call. When Brosnan did finally show back up, the film finally reveals the WHY, as in “why is half the population of Laos (or Cambodia – the film intentionally omits what country this is happening in, but we know it borders Vietnam and it’s definitely not China) trying to kill Owen Wilson and his family” and I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
There’s a book called Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins that I’m pretty sure nobody in the theater had read besides me. The book is Perkins’ account of roughly thirty years working for the NSA as a consulting engineer for a firm called Chas. T. Main. He describes his job as visits to impoverished nations where he would provide inflated economic forecasts in order to convince them to borrow huge sums of money to build infrastructure. Of course, their economies would never grow as predicted, they would default on their loans, and the companies/countries they borrowed the money from would own them. In other words (Perkins’ words), empire building by America and its corporations. I know it sounds a bit conspiratorial – and if you read the book, you can decide for yourself how much you want to believe – but it’s the perfect premise for a movie. When the film is transitioning to the third act, Brosnan explains this very idea to Wilson, though Brosnan’s character is a bit of a mix of Perkins and a lethal spy (Perkins never claims to have any kind of training beyond engineering forecasts).
That’s the entire plot of the film and is more of a political-statement film than a simple thriller that seeks dead Americans. Getting back to the film itself, the most notable thing is the tension that never ratchets down from nail-biting ass-clencher. It’s right there in the title, No Escape – you really don’t know if Wilson’s family is going to survive or if some or all of them (Brosnan as well) are going to die. The movie is one tense scene after another, one close encounter followed by another, all the while dripping/spraying/covered in blood from the numerous brutal murders occurring just steps behind the family.
Perhaps just as notable is the performance put forth by Wilson. In playing a father (Jack) trying to protect his family in a serious thriller, Wilson shows that he is capable of playing more than just a charming doofus, even managing to weave that doofus into the role to slightly ease the tension every now and again. Lake Bell (playing his wife Annie) is just as convincing, as are the two kids playing their daughters (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare as Lucy and Beeze, respectively). As opposed to most movies with families, these people are believable as kin and avoided many of the family clichés that Hollywood loves inserting into movies like this.
Kudos need also go to the writers, John and Drew Dowdle (John doubled as director). I’ve already mentioned the tension, but they also managed to make each character sympathetic, as well as the family as a whole. One scene in particular will stick in your mind – in one of the many places they hide, young Beeze whispers that she needs to pee. Annie and Jack exchange a quick glance of desperation, then Annie tells Beeze to go ahead and pee where she is (had this been a clichéd thriller, the parents would have tried convincing her to hold it until they were safe and Lucy would have teased her somehow). Beeze puts up a mild protest – that she isn’t a baby – and Annie and Jack assure her that it is okay this one time and that they love her. Beeze relents and puts on one of the saddest and pitiful faces you will ever see in a film. That little kid manages to look ashamed and embarrassed at what she is doing and if your heart doesn’t break a little right there (or a lot), you are dead inside.
After the film, the general consensus among my friends was that the movie was a solid B, but they had never heard of the book I mentioned. However, one of them had a much more visceral reaction to the film – he thought it was very good, but it made him a little disgusted at our country (and even more so after I explained the book to him). Regardless as to whether you believe our country does things like that, when a movie can have that kind of effect on a viewer, you know the filmmakers did something right.
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back and go read that book.