I have not been the most fortunate cinemagoer in recent weeks having been subjected to superhero flops and abysmally unfunny stool water that apparently passes as comedy nowadays. So I came to No Escape with both caution and some hope that the Weinstein’s might be able to break this trend of Hollywood garbage.
I will write this review with the intention of avoiding as many spoilers as possible, but if you want to watch the film without knowing anything about it, it is probably best to stop here and come back once you’ve seen it.
There isn’t actually an official summary on the Weinstein site, so instead I’ll let you enjoy the trailer which I think sums up the basics of the film without giving too much away.
The basic premise as can be seen from the trailer is that Owen Wilson and Lake Bell are in an unnamed Southeast Asian country (USeAC) with their children during some sort of armed conflict. In order to give you a little more context, we see in the opening few minutes that the whole family is moving to USeAC for Wilson’s job after the failure of his own company and none of them look best pleased by the situation. Things don’t quite work out as planned, and the family are soon trying to stay ahead of the civil unrest and stay safe. This leads to an interesting and at time very tense story as we experience the various challenges to reach safety.
One of the best things about the film is that I wouldn’t consider Owen Wilson and Lake Bell to be full a-list Hollywood stars even though they are relatively well-known actors. That probably seems like damning with faint praise but in this sort of film, which relies on suspense, it is essential because I don’t think either is so big that you cannot have one or both die in a film. It works perfectly here and really ensures that the film maintains an underlying tension as the story unfolds.
That combined with the score, blends perfectly with the story and the visuals to help build tension at all the right moments, and while there is some obvious foreshadowing of challenging scenes, the film does enough to keep the viewer engaged sufficiently so that most won’t notice. There is some deliberately uneven pacing which adds rather than detracts from the overall film as it gives the characters and the viewers a chance to catch their breath and take stock of what is going on and where it could go.
I was also impressed by the ambition to build the film around the family and the impact that the violence was having on them, even if it doesn’t entirely succeed in exploring the family element to its fullest.
On the violence mentioned above, being a 15 certificate, viewers can expect some brutality and violence, but the filmmakers have done well to avoid showing too much gratuitous violence while still creating a sense of impending danger. There are also some scenes that I expect some viewers to find at least mildly traumatic, but these are used sparingly which only increases their effect on the audience.
There was also a surprising amount of humour in the film. It certainly isn’t a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but there were genuine moments of levity which worked really well. They helped to relieve some of the tension that had built-up in the previous scenes, and prevented the film from being overly-taught and overawing. Perhaps that was the reason why those moments were met with laughs throughout the cinema, but they are certainly well-placed and enhanced rather than detracted from the rest of the film.
Having said all that, it is not without its flaws. Firstly, I felt some of the characters were a little underdeveloped and at times there seemed to be slightly mixed messages about exactly what characters were thinking and/or feeling. That may have been a deliberate attempts to highlight the confusion and uncertainty people would feel if placed in that scenario, but I felt it kept the characters less relatable than if we had a better insight into their thoughts.
I also felt slightly puzzled at how knowledgeable Wilson’s character seemed to be about things. While being clueless about the details of events, he somehow manages to devise and execute plans with little apparent effort. While I realise that it was entirely necessary for the plot, there were times when it just seemed a bit strange that a businessman with no evident military training would suddenly decide to do things that didn’t seem particularly sensible or necessary. It isn’t a major problem, and other viewers may feel differently, but it did somewhat distance me from the film at times and somewhat ruin the suspense that was building as the story unfolds.
Aside from those relatively minor issues, it was a perfectly enjoyable film, although perhaps enjoyable is the wrong word. It manages to maintain suspense and tension for long periods and keeps the audience engaged without ever pushing viewers to be too overwrought. The score compliments the storyline and the visuals with near perfection and the couple of humorous moments were perfectly well placed to relieve the sensation of impending doom, without breaking the underlying tension of the film. It is well-shot and reasonably well acted and while the characters are a little two-dimensional, they are just relatable enough to ensure that the audience has enough