No Escape
dir John Erick Dowdle
scr John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
prd Drew Dowdle, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak
with Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Pierce Brosnan, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Thanawut Kasro, Jon Goldney, Barthelemy Son, Chatchawai Kamonsakpitak, Tanapol Chuksrida, Bonnie Jo Hutchison
release US 28.Aug.15, UK 4.Sep.15
15/US 1h43
No Escape
Get us out of here: Jerins, Bell, Geare and Wilson

wilson bell brosnan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
No Escape Essentially a Taken movie souped-up with brains, this adept action thriller makes terrific use of lead actors who are better known for comedy than outrageous stuntwork. The filmmakers wisely keep the focus tightly on the characters in this specific situation, leaving most of the plot details conveniently blurred.

Jack and Annie (Wilson and Bell) move to an unnamed southeast Asian country (played by Thailand) with two young daughters Lucy and Beeze (Jerins and Geare) to start a new life. But they've arrived at precisely the moment that the government is overthrown by violent rebels intent on wiping out anyone who seems in league with American corporations. As thugs chase them with guns and machetes, Jack and Annie go on the run with their kids, assisted by British operative Hammond (Brosnan) and his Kenny Rogers-fan sidekick (Boonthanakit). But things aren't looking hopeful.

Of course the title is wrong: no matter how hopeless things look every few minutes, this is a movie, so someone will escape. Despite a carefully constructed script packed with random coincidences, the Dowdle brothers avoid most of the usual boneheaded action cliches. The movie is set up as one breathless chase that progresses through a series of unusually gritty and rather terrifying set-pieces. So watching it is relentlessly nerve-wracking, even as we find it hard to believe that the filmmakers will harm this fragile family.

Amid the nonstop intensity, Wilson and Bell both manage to deliver surprisingly rounded performances that make emotional sense of the sketchy backstory involving marital tensions and disappointments. We don't need to know every detail when the actors are so good at conveying how they feel. Even as they run for their lives, they have some genuinely wrenching personal moments, which makes the violence unusually harrowing. And Brosnan adds a counterpoint as his usual sardonic tough guy.

Most impressive is the sense that death means something. No one is killed just because they seem shifty, the marauders have a reason for their actions, and any heroic measures are depicted as acts of desperation. OK, the movie will give paranoid Americans another reason not to leave home, and it's a bit of a cheap shot to make the West the ultimate baddie due to centuries of dodgy foreign policy. But the filmmakers make a strong point, and by simplifying their script, rather than dumbing it down, they've made an unusually involving thriller.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Aug.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall