Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Escape Review

I saw the trailer for the movie No Escape in theaters for the first time a few months ago and honestly I was intrigued. We had Owen Wilson playing the lead role in a dramatic film that seemed like a historical thriller. Knowing nothing else about the movie, a whole bunch of interesting thoughts went through my head. These seemed like a movie the Academy would like. Is this going to be one of our Oscar contenders? Could Owen Wilson get his first best actor nomination at the Oscars? I liked that idea. Suddenly I envisioned myself rooting for Owen Wilson to win an Oscar. Then I saw the release date of the movie. Late August. Oh. Suddenly all of these thoughts were completely wiped away. The last weekend of August is not a date that the Weinstein Company would put a movie that they are hoping can contend for an Oscar. In fact, that's a weekend that a lot of b-level action, thrillers, and horror movies get put to die. This year the Weinstein Company will be pushing movies like Carol, Burnt, and/or The Hateful Eight for the Oscars. Not No Escape. In fact, they probably are just hoping that they can sneak in a few extra dollars with this release. Suddenly I was a lot less excited to see this movie, but oh well. Perhaps I can go in and have a good time.

I mentioned that I thought this movie looked like a historical thriller. It's not. Not really, anyways. It is a thriller, but the historical thing not so much. Owen Wilson plays a fictional character named Jack Dwyer who has decided to move his family to Southeast Asia to start over. Thailand, I believe. He got a job offer there that he's excited about. As it turns out, this is a situation where he gets diagnosed with a bad case of being in the wrong place at the worst time. Less than 24 hours after he gets there and is all settled in, there is some sort of huge violent outbreak where all the natives have decided that they are going to mercilessly kill all the foreign people in the area and so Owen Wilson quickly finds himself running for his life with his family to try to find somewhere safe to settle in. Now if this was a historical drama based on actual events or an actual war or civil war that happened in Thailand, this would be a really interesting movie. As is this is just a fictional thriller where all the natives are seen as violent madmen that are out to kill all the Americans. I don't know much about the politics of Thailand and what, if anything, is going on over there, but this felt wrong. It felt racist. Maybe I'm just completely off my rocker, but I had a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach about whatever message this movie was trying to portray.

Throughout the movie I was trying to figure out what the purpose of this film was. Were they trying to portray some sort of political message? Were they trying to accurately portray the lifestyle of the people of Thailand? I hope not, because if that is the case I feel this could be an offensive movie. Were they just trying to make a harmless thriller? These seems more like the case here, but if that were the case, I feel they could've had a better approach. Instead of it being Owen Wilson, the American, being a victim of all these horrible savages that live in Thailand, perhaps it could've been Owen Wilson being the target of a random, fictionalized organization. That would've been better. As is, I felt a little unsettled throughout the course of the movie. However, if I were to ignore all of that and focus on the actual thriller aspect of the movie, this was a really intense movie. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and honestly I had no idea if the whole family was going to survive. The movie went back and forth from being quiet and still to being really intense and thus it made all the quiet moments even more intense. In fact, a comparison that I thought of during the movie was World War Z. The difference was it was angry Thai people instead of zombies. But outside that, the two movies were fairly similar.

I do want to talk about Owen Wilson for a moment. He's actually been one of my favorite comedy actors for quite some time. His comedic timing is always really good and even when he's in a bad movie, it still feels like he is having a good time. I can't think of too many times where he has done a completely serious role, though. He's always doing comedy. But this is a case where he does pure drama. Sure, there are moments where he tries to be funny, but he's not being funny for the audience. He's being funny for his kids in the movie, telling the classic dad jokes that make his young kids laugh. Outside that, he is completely serious the whole time and he does a dang good job at it. It gave me the feeling that if he got a lucky break and was cast in an Oscar-bait movie, he has what it takes to pull off an Oscar-worthy performance. I always like it when an actor or actress can step outside of his or her comfort zone and still pull off a great performance. I love comedians who can do serious roles. Those are the best comedians. Owen Wilson has now proven that he is among that class of comedians, so major props to him. As a side note to Owen Wilson, they did some close up shots of him at the beginning while they were on the plane and for the first time I noticed that Owen Wilson is getting old. In fact, I looked up his age afterwards and learned that he will turn 47 later this year. I found that interesting.

As far as the cast around Owen Wilson, they also did a great job. Lake Bell plays Owen Wilson's wife in the movie and the two of them have really great chemistry as a couple. I don't know her too well as an actress. I had to look her up afterwards to remember what else she was because she looked super familiar and that's when I realized that I remember her from the baseball movie Million Dollar Arm. She's the main girl in that as well. She was good in that, too, so props to her. We also had James Bond come to save the day several times in the movie. I'm talking about Pierce Brosnan. He always shows up in the most intense moments and does a great job of giving the audience a quick breather. Every time he showed up, I felt like our family was safe, whereas when he's not there and our family is on their own, things are extremely intense. Speaking of those intense moments, another thing that did bother me was the use of the shaky cam in the movie. I'm not one of those that thinks shaky cam is inherently bad. If done well I think it's extremely effective. But in this instance it got in the way. I wanted the camera to be more stable because I was feeling a bit dizzy in some of the scenes.

In the end, if you are bored this weekend and are looking for a decent time at the movies, this is a better option than a several other recent releases. It's meant to be a thriller first and foremost and if I were to grade it solely on that, I'd give it high praise because it's a very good thriller. It also had great performances from Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan to further push it forward. However, I can't praise it too much because it did make me feel unsettled in how it dealt with the locals. I wanted the movie to either be an accurate, historical representation of what was going on over there. That would've been interesting. But it's not. It's just a work of fiction and as such, if they are going to go that approach, I would've rather the villains in the movie be a random fictional organization that Owen Wilson is trying to escape from instead of some mad savages from a foreign country. Yes, it did remind me of World War Z and that is a good thing, but the fact that it's local savages instead of zombies just didn't sit well with me and because of that I feel like the movie is a bit of a wasted opportunity. Thus my grade for No Escape is a 6.5/10.

UPDATE: After posting this review, I realized that Thailand doesn't border Vietnam. While the movie is filmed in Thailand, they don't actually say what country they are in, but they do have a goal to escape to Vietnam, which is bordered by Laos and Cambodia. I just assumed this took place in Thailand because that's where it's filmed. But whether this is supposed to be in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, the idea is the same. They portrayed a whole country of people as angry savages and that didn't sit well with me

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