John Erick Dowdle’s No Escape – which he co-penned with his brother Drew – is a rare, immersive treat where the action thriller is concerned, in the sense that we, the viewer, sitting down scoffing on popcorn, and eating the rogue kernels that get stuck to our jumper, can genuinely embody the protagonist; to place ourselves in his shoes and wonder what we’d do in such a perilous situation. This isn’t like Taken or John Wick, where our hero just so happens to be a former CIA operative, or assassin. Instead Jack, played by Owen Wilson, is just a bloke. A very ordinary, notably unskilled bloke – just like the rest of us.
Jack and his wife, Annie (Lake Bell) are moving to Thailand, along with their two young daughters, for the former’s new job. Already somewhat underwhelmed by the move and anxious of things working out well, any such apprehensions are soon validated, when the hotel they are staying in comes under siege by a swarm of barbaric rebels, protesting against international interference that is tarnishing local practises – and Jack, given the company he’s now working for, is a target. With the dead bodies piling up around them, the family join forces with fellow survivor Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) and set off into the streets of Bangkok, desperately vying to stay alive.
There’s an intensity to this title that derives from our protagonist’s sense of vulnerability and disorientation, as a result of them being tourists in a foreign land – frightened and lost in a culture that’s so new to them, with the language barrier not helping matters. Not that it’s a challenge to root for Jack and Annie however, given the affability the two actors possess, which allows for us to invest in their survival and form a bond with them, which is maintained throughout. However the line between good and evil is blurred somewhat, and while you undoubtedly root for the family’s well-being, and at times feel disdain for the rebels following their reprehensible acts, you remain sympathetic to the antagonist’s predicament, as the Thai rebels are vying to protect and preserve their culture. This may appear as your typical, white saintly Westerners versus interchangeable foreign villains affair, but there’s far more to this than initially meets the eye.
Another line that is left blurry, is that of the one between entertainment and sheer stupidity, as we cross into the latter on a few too many occasions. There’s one roof sequence in particular which is hysterically absurd, proving that for all of the enjoyment which is there to be had, there’s a lot of creative license taken up on Dowdle’s part, which can be detrimental to the finished product.