Starring: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
American businessman Jack Dwyer (Wilson) and his family arrive in Southeast Asia to start a new life as Jack’s company has major investments in the area to improve the water quality. They soon however find themselves in the middle of a political uprising in which all foreigners are being executed, with their survival solely depending on escaping the ensuing chaos and life threatening danger all around them.
Though he has done the occasional serious role in the past, recently Owen Wilson has had a tendency to play it very safe with comedy roles that take minimal effort. Well, with No Escape not only does Wilson exert himself very well in what is a challenging role, but the decision to cast him in this role is one of the reasons why, despite the B movie concept and a fair few narrative flaws, this film works on the levels it does and produce many moments of genuine edge-of-the-seat tension.
I of course have no idea if Owen Wilson was the first choice for this role, but the fact is that if it were a Neeson, a Washington or a Statham in the lead role then No Escape would be a completely different film, and probably much the worse for it. It would certainly feel more predictable, and therefore far more devoid of genuine tension or intrigue. Jack Dwyer is supposed to be an everyman caught in the middle of an unprecedented situation were one wrong move will mean death for him and his family. He is a man completely and utterly out of depth, he has never had to resort to violence in his life and is surviving solely on instinct.
One of the main ways a film like this can engage is make the average viewer put themselves in this situation and contemplate what they would do, and the casting of an actor we associate with predominantly light hearted comedic roles helps to enhance that thought process from the viewer. If this were Neeson, Washington or Statham, no matter the odds there is only ever going to be one outcome and we would just sit back, switch brain off and let what seems to be an indestructible character overcome outrageous odds. However, when it is an actor like Owen Wilson things certainly feel far less certain, and that is only a very good thing.
Wilson himself does a very good job in the role and though there are certainly a fair few narrative clichés, John Erick Dowdle keeps these to a minimum, especially the balance of character decisions (especially the children) that often provide infuriating viewing, but on the whole feel like believable decisions your average person would potentially make in such an unprecedented situation, despite their obvious stupidity when thought about from in overall context.
Unfortunately for all the raw tension, Dowdle seems to obviously struggle to fill the running time, and this leads to one of the film’s major problems of having to introduce another character to fill the time and bridge a fair few narrative developments in quite a jarringly clunky way.
Pierce Brosnan is of course a very marketable name to put on any poster, but whenever his character is around the film’s biggest problems begin to arise. Hi is as charismatic as ever and great fun to watch, but his performance (and bizarre accent that sounds like a bad Michael Caine impression) feels like it is in a completely different film. His arrival often brings about what feels like a completely lazy cop-out by the script, and this and his slightly mad performance inevitably takes the viewer out of the moment and really does detract from the genuine tension and makes us feel like we are in the more generic territory of just another action film. There is also a scene where the two of them have a bit of expositional chinwag which gives the viewer a patronising lesson of the beginners guide to global politics, which is quite frankly very unnecessary.
However, there is a reason why the cast list on the poster says and Pierce Brosnan (if you know what I mean?) and the rest of the film works as a very well executed exercise in genuine cinematic tension, and refreshingly, some unpredictability. Just don’t try to figure out what country they are actually in!
Despite the generic premise, thanks mainly to its leading man casting and some well executed moments, No Escape is a genuinely thrilling exercise in involving cinematic tension. It is just a shame Pierce Brosnan seemingly wandered onto the wrong film set!