Saturday, December 5, 2015

Movie Reviews: No Escape

No Escape
directed by The Dowdle Brothers (John Erick and Drew)
This was an exciting and well directed movie with only a few events that didn't make sense. Ok maybe it had more than a few things that didn't make sense. But it was still a thrill ride albeit perhaps a subtly manipulative one. There are some deeper questions about planetary fairness and corporate neo-colonialism that the film clumsily shoehorns into the narrative as a vaccine against charges of bigotry. These questions are still worth thinking about. For example, you may well believe that it's wrong that half the world's population lives on less than $3/day, doesn't have access to clean drinking water or toilet facilities, or has to deal with diseases and conditions long since eradicated in the West. You may blame Western imperialism, colonialism and racism for this state of affairs. Perhaps you sympathize somewhat with Third World socialist or nationalist movements or parties who seek to alter this state of affairs. Perhaps. However if someone who has suffered thru these repressive living conditions decides that they are entitled to beat, rob, rape or murder you in order to exorcise their bad feelings and settle the score, I'm betting any sympathy you had for their plight vanishes. So there's that. Brothers John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, who also wrote and directed As Above, So Below and Quarantine, directed this movie. 

No Escape had a horror movie sensibility to it but then again the worst horrors are other people. One can argue about whether some of the behaviors depicted in this film would really happen but there's thousands of years of history to show that they would. If enough people get the idea that they can let their worst instincts run loose with no repercussions, well you get things like the Opelousas Massascre, Kristallnacht, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and so on.
It is really important to re-emphasize how well this film is edited and put together. You feel as if you are actually there. This is the sort of movie which may have you yelling at the screen. The camera work moves smoothly back and forth between close handheld views and more panoramic vistas.

Do you remember the ending of The Sopranos? Do you remember how the director skillfully made you think that something drastic was about to happen? Well maybe that drastic thing happened and maybe it didn't but this movie opens up with the same sort of palpable tension. In an unnamed SouthEast Asian country the prime minister, surrounded by bodyguards and soldiers, meets with a Western (American?) diplomat or businessman. Something is subtly off. The prime minister has a food taster who doubles as his top bodyguard.  Are the drinks poisoned? Is there a bomb hidden somewhere? Is the Westerner an assassin? Well the Westerner leaves but then things jump off. 17 hours before this, the genially clueless Texan civil engineer Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), his quite curvy but somewhat hard looking wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two pre-teen daughters are flying to this country to start over. Jack's previous employer has declared bankruptcy. This new assignment is his last chance to stay in his chosen career. Jack will be overseeing water treatment and delivery projects. On the plane the family makes an acquaintance of the suave Britisher Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). Arriving at their hotel the family is nonplussed to learn that the amenities aren't exactly up to First World standards. 

Annie and the kids didn't want to leave home to travel halfway around the world. Jack can't believe that the hotel clerk has no messages for him. He can't even find a current English language newspaper for goodness sakes! After again encountering Hammond, who is raring to go sample the nightlife, Jack decides to stay in for the night. He tries, albeit ineptly, to comfort Annie, who's sobbing in the bathroom about well, everything. So it goes. Marriage is for better or worse. It's right there in the vows.
The next morning, Jack sets out on a journey to find a newspaper. But Jack is a rather unlucky fellow. Returning to the hotel he witnesses the start of a bloody confrontation between the police and rioters. The rioters get the upper hand. And in front of the hotel Jack sees rioters executing tourists. Well that will just ruin your day won't it. Jack must find his wife and daughters and leave. But leave for where exactly? Jack and his brood can't exactly blend into the local populace. Additionally, they neither speak the language nor understand the culture. And Jack isn't some secret Billy Bada$$ who will suddenly reveal a very particular set of skills. But all the same needs must. When the lives of your loved ones are at stake, you may find yourself doing things you never thought you could. In many aspects this is basically a live action zombie movie. As mentioned there are a few nods here and there to the humanity of the people of this country but that's really not what the film is interested in showing.  Jack and family are outnumbered and surrounded. They do get help from some unexpected quarters but ultimately they're on their own. 

This movie was very fast paced at about 103 minutes. You can't wait to see what happens next. The film goes from strength to strength visually. The writing is not the film's best feature but again, it's showing clueless Americans caught up in a coup and trying to escape. If you can't identify with that, this is not the film for you. 
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