Every so often a movie will come along that unexpectedly floors you. Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year so far, ‘No Escape‘ fits that description sublimely. I’d not heard a lot about the movie before seeing it. Sliding under the radar like it did certainly worked to its advantage. Owen Wilson plays Jack Dwyer, a man relocating his family halfway around the world to Thailand to take on a new job with a water company there. Upon his arrival, he is befriended by Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) a British citizen who is there for some fun and apparent debauchery. Upon stepping out in an attempt to find an American newspaper the next morning, Dwyer instead finds himself literally caught between a group of armed police in riot gear and the same rebel soldiers who had assassinated the Prime Minister of the country the previous day.
Frantically making his way back to the hotel in which he and his family are staying, Dwyer sees Americans being hauled out of the building and executed in the street. He manages to make his way to his room where he helps his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their 2 daughters to the relative safety of the roof where a small group of residents are holed up. This moment’s respite from the danger is short-lived. From one harrowing escape to another, the thrills keep coming and we are right there with the family as we see to what lengths people will go just to survive. With the help of Hammond and his compatriot “Kenny Rogers” (Sahajak Boonthanakit), the Dwyers barely manage to hang on as they are stalked at every turn. Struggling to keep his family safe and fighting to stay alive, Owen Wilson delivers a fantastic performance as the besieged American with no choice but to make it “another 10 steps.”
Pierce Brosnan, for me, is always stellar and I will say that I almost enjoy seeing him more in these roguish types of roles a la ‘The Matador‘ and ‘The Tailor of Panama‘ than in his more smooth, panache, days as 007. However, the stand out performance for me was Lake Bell. Having just seen her last week in Netflix’s ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp‘ in a very comedic role and then watching the equal levels of both strength and vulnerability she masterfully flips between in ‘No Escape’ was a reminder of just what kind of acting chops this lady possesses.
The writer and director of this adrenaline filled nailbiter is none other than John Erick Dowdle who brilliantly directed ‘Devil‘ (which I also loved) and he was the writer and director of ‘Quarantine‘. This man knows how to build suspense, tension & anxiety and that talent is on full display during the course of the film’s blazing fast 103 minutes running time. (Emphasis on the word “running.”) The movie was so tense that the wife of one reviewer had to leave the screening about half-way through. I asked how she was after the film and she said “I just couldn’t take the tension any longer.” This quote seemed to mirror what I actually kept thinking about throughout the film. How much would you endure? How far would you go and to what lengths would you push yourself to keep the people you love safe and get them to sanctuary? The cast of the movie is spot-on in their portrayal of the range of emotions that I can only imagine one would encounter in such a situation and the director does a perfect job of heightening the frenzy with each new obstacle that presents itself. For how quietly it slipped in towards the tail end of summer, ‘No Escape’ may easily be the most intense thriller of the year!