What it's about:
An American businessman and his family settle into their new home in Southeast Asia. Suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a violent political uprising, they must frantically look for a safe escape as rebels mercilessly attack the city.
What we thought:
Any film on conflict set in a perceived third world country has a mountain of considerations in its portrayal of people of a certain ethnicity or nationality. No Escape is very careful in not naming the country it is set in, but seeing as it borders Vietnam in the film, one can easily assume it’s a depiction of Cambodia, where the film is justifiably banned. But although from the start it appears to be subtly racist and xenophobic, the villains in the story are fluid, highlighting the negative impacts of Western interference in other countries.
An American engineer (Owen Wilson) moves his wife (Lake Bell) and two young daughters halfway across the world for a new job in a Southeast Asian country. Unbeknownst to him, the country is rocked by a massive coup, and their new life turns into a fight for survival as they try to navigate the blood-soaked streets to find a way out. They befriend a mysterious stranger (Pierce Brosnan) who ends up being their ticket to freedom.
No Escape is not the most memorable film, but if you happen to tune into it on the television (where it should have probably gone first) you can’t help yourself become emotionally involved in this family’s survival. Kids in a warzone are always hard to watch, but it speaks volumes that when a white, American child is caught in conflict of this scale, the audience is almost always more invested, albeit on a superficial scale. Either it’s a cheap tactic to elicit emotional response, or the filmmakers are aware of that disparity in selective outrage and are trying to point it out.
As for the depiction of the people of the country, not all are portrayed as revenge-blind murderers, as many try to help the family, but yet it’s still a stereotypical portrayal that is hard to get away from. Interestingly, the blame for the coup and violence is not centered on the perpetrators themselves, but rather on the actions of an American company which meddled in the affairs of not-Cambodia. This makes the antagonist more human; something that Western media tends to forget in their reports on conflict and violence.
The cast was nothing exceptional, although Wilson and Sterling Jerins, who plays one of his daughters, had one exceptional scene that is the nightmare of any parent and child, and it stuck with me the most out of anything else from the film. That one scene made this film semi-memorable, sparking in the mind a ‘What-would-you-have-done’ moment. Brosnan’s character appeared to be a subtle reference to his time as James Bond, although with much less class.
No Escape is not exactly what you expect it to be, and perhaps with a different treatment it could have been something more, but it is not a film to spend an expensive movie ticket on. Rather wait for a TV spot.