Film review: No Escape

Owen Wilson stars in a gloriously tense thriller, but it loses all momentum midway through, writes Michael Joyce.

No Escape is a Hollywood action picture that takes a long, hard, honest look at the reality of America’s dealings with the rest of the world, and then halfway through abruptly flips back to the fantasy of its place in the world.

Owen Wilson flys his family (wife Bell and two daughters) to a new life in an unidentified south east Asian country, only to find that he’s flown into a huge flock of pigeons coming home to roost. They arrive expecting an exciting chance to start again with his new engineering job and find themselves, first morning, caught up in a coup where westerners are being butchered by machete-wielding mobs.

The first half is blindingly effective. The film puts you right into the situation, the dramatic collapse of societal norms that means within minutes of being infuriated that the TV isn’t working, you are running for your life.

The attack and ransacking of the hotel has the horrific intensity of a good zombie movie; as that dramatic affront to civilized values you knew and assumed is turned upside down.


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It all goes wrong midway through in what we will call The Improbable Rooftop Incident, when Wilson reacts to a nightmarish situation with a moment of resolve and resourcefulness that is well beyond the everyday person.

He doesn’t become Rambo, but the sequence contains a chorus of bells, all ringing untruths on many different levels: character, situation and probability.

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And in this sequence all the cold sweat that the film has previously generated is wiped from your brow. You know that however many other lives will be lost and hardships suffered, this American family unit will remain inviolate.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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