Escape from [insert name of fictional Asian city here]
Considering the plot, characterisation and cinematography this film contains, it is not difficult to imagine it being made in the 1980’s (with Harrison Ford replacing Owen Wilson as the lead hero) or even the 1950’s (starring Jimmy Stewart). This is not a way of complimenting the film and suggesting it is timeless, anything but. This film is dreary, predictable and exceptionally dated. It’s portrayal of foreign conflict and politics is extremely problematic, a one-sided view of global issues that is almost xenophobic in presentation. The only thing that separates No Escape from a B-movie shown on the dark and misty unknown entities of Sky Movies channels after channel 315 is it’s talented cast, who are severely let down by the dross of a screenplay. Having not stayed for the end credits (in my desperation to leave the cinema) I can only presume my hunch that the ‘research’ for this film was the greatest hits of The Daily Mail is in fact true…
Jack (Owen Wilson), an American engineer, leaves behind a failed business to drag his family to
Southeast Asia to head his water manufacturing company’s new plant there. When they get there; they seem to be having problems, the electronics don’t work and rarely any cars are seen in the streets. When he goes to the market the next morning, he finds himself caught in the middle of a violent rebellion headed by armed rebels executing foreigners. Unbeknownst to Jack, just days before these armed rebels assassinated their prime minster. Jack must get back to the hotel and with the help of a mysterious British “tourist” (Pierce Brosnan), must get his family to the American Embassy in the midst of the chaos. But is there any escape?
Firstly, the family. Jack is the archaic kind of hero of cinema long ago. He’s the Everyman. A husband. A father. By agreeing to this new job he has uprooted his family and doesn’t appreciate how they might feel, so he must learn his lesson through enduring this hero’s journey. He has a jarringly good range of survival skills; he knows instantaneously how to survive the most incredible and most ridiculous situations without having to think about it. Most depressingly of all, he is intentionally presented as all charmness and niceties whereas his wife Annie (Lake Bell) spends most of the film crying or with her face contorted into fear/outrage. And, as bad as it will sound, their children are unbearably annoying. The majority of hurdles the family face are either caused by the children or severely complicated by the children. Pierce Brosnan enters, exits and reenters the film to little effect. His presence here echos something Micheal Caine declared when once asked about his role in Jaws: The Revenge,’ I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.’ That must be the only reason that Brosnan is here giving a throwaway performance as a mysterious lothario Cockney.
The film’s biggest error is its portrayal of the ‘enemy’, The way the armed rebels are presented could have been an intelligent examination of ISIS or other militant groups. Instead they reflect the sentiments of those who use the term ‘swarm’ to label those currently seeking European asylum. They are characiatures: nameless, faceless and brainless. They are zombies, an epidemic the hero must save his family from.
No Escape mistakes creating tension by instead creating frustration. It’s one-part popcorn movie to two-parts shameless exploitation.