After deciding to jump back into the blogging world (you can easily tell from my previous movie review of “Annabelle” that it’s been about a year), I started thinking about what to write. Looking back over my previous posts, I was reminded of how much I enjoy reviewing films, so I searched my mind for any particularly good (or particularly bad) films I’ve seen lately, and I remembered “No Escape.”
From the minute the credits began rolling at the conclusion of the film, I said, “That was the best movie I’ve seen in a really long time.” Unfortunately, I don’t think the trailers did this movie justice, as I very nearly almost didn’t see it. Thankfully, my husband made the suggestion one night, and I was bored, so I figured what the heck. I had mediocre expectations for this film, but even if my expectations had been much higher, I still believe it would have exceeded them.
Watching “No Escape” is an almost unbearably intense experience. It’s one of those movies in which, once the screen goes black and the credits appear, you realize you haven’t been breathing for the past hour and a half. I found myself taking deep, calming breaths from the theater, to my car, and all the way back to my house. I believe the intensity of the film hits you hard and stays with you long after the credits roll because the writing and direction were absolutely fantastic. Drew and John Erick Dowdle have created a story that is so raw and real, one which takes real-life situations that simultaneously tug at our heartstrings and illicit unnerving fear. The rooftop scene was intense. The realism of the simple worries of children, such as being hungry or needing to go to the bathroom was heart-wrenching. The (spoiler alert) almost-rape scene undoubtedly had every woman in the theater clenching their legs shut in anxious anticipation. All of these moments, and more, were so powerfully relateable and came alive through the help of talented actors and good direction by John Erick Dowdle. Although the film is much more “action” than “horror,” and there aren’t many “jump” scenes involved, there is an underlying fear that grips you tightly throughout the entire story.
Another reason I believe “No Escape” succeeded at inciting very powerful, realistic fear is because of some great casting decisions. I have to admit, when I saw the previews for this movie, I thought, “Owen Wilson? Really?” I love the guy, but I’ve never seen him in this type of a role before, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that he could handle it. After watching the film, however, I realize that casting a more “Average Joe” kind of guy to play the lead role was brilliant. It goes back to the fact that the reason the story is so powerful is because you, as a viewer, are bombarded with the constant, unnerving idea that “this could happen to anyone.” Being that the story follows an average dad traveling with his family for his somewhat average job, I think it’s more than fitting that the “hero” in the tale be an average guy. So, seriously, well done on that casting choice.
Another thing that I enjoyed about the writing: in the midst of all of this fear and chaos and quick-decision-making, a dad still has to be a dad and a mom still has to be a mom. The children in this story were in that perfectly frustrating age-range in which they understand that something bad is going on and they should be afraid, but they’re not fully aware of the danger of the situation. I loved that Owen Wilson’s character, Jack, continuously pushed his wife to be more brutally honest with their kids about what was happening, because they needed to know. As it was said on my favorite BBC show, “Doctor Who,” “Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger.” Those kids needed fear, and Jack made sure they had the appropriate amount, not too much and not too little. Though fear is important, I also enjoyed the fact that the writers never let us forget that we are watching a family, not just a group of strangers banding together for survival, and every family has their own form of humor. One of my absolute favorite moments in the film was after the infamous “rooftop scene.” The family is gathered together on the ledge of a building as mom and dad try to figure a way out of this situation, and one of their young daughters says she’s hungry. Mom and dad exchange a heartfelt glance, knowing they can’t provide her with the food she needs. After a short moment, Jack simply replies with the ever-so-classic, “Hi Hungry, I’m Dad.” It was a brilliant moment, reminding us of every struggle these parents are going through, because this isn’t just about staying alive; it’s about keeping their sanity, staying as positive as possible, and making sure their children will be okay once all of this is over.
Overall, “No Escape” was an incredible film in many ways. I can’t think of anything lacking in the story, and although it is one of those films that makes you say, “That was great, but I don’t want to watch it again,” after a few months of recovery, I’m itching for the day it is released on DVD/Blu-ray. It’s one for the Christmas list, this year. 5 stars.