‘No Escape’ stars Owen Wilson in one of his best roles




Verdict: “No Escape” succeeds in the difficult thriller genre with great action from beginning to end.

The multiple OSCAR winner and classical Hollywood director Billy Wilder outlined 10 rules for screenwriting. His tenth commandment is:  “The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that’s it. Don’t hang around.”

“No Escape” follows this rule successfully. There’s absolutely no fat in the ending of the plot. It works well because the film doesn’t hang around. Once the thriller ends – and there’s plenty of it – the black screen appears and the lights come on. Just like a rollercoaster ride, you will only breathe once you leave the theater.

In the film, Jack (Owen Wilson) is an American engineer trying to start a new life in Asia with his wife and two kids. They are caught, however, in the middle of a revolution where foreigners are among the main targets.

The few minutes after the prologue set up these characters: a loving father, a supportive wife and happy kids. Instead of falling to the cliché of kids who are annoyed to be moving away from their home in Texas, the movie shows how much they love and support their father. It is a nice character touch.

Once things begin to go wrong, we already care for this family. From here, the movie goes on an unstoppable crescendo to the end. This rising tension is one of the marks of a good thriller.

Scenes carry good amounts of tension. As Jack, his family and other foreigners get trapped by rebels on the roof, who later begin shooting at them, there is that “no escape” sensation. This sensation reappears when they must drive through a wave of rebels without being recognized.

Some scenes are more unbelievable than others, which can break the spell of tension in those viewers who are more critical. In one of these scenes, Jack throws his kids to another building’s roof while his wife catches one then the other. Despite the eventual break in realism, all scenes work in progressively stepping up the sensation of danger and entrapment.

Photography is, in turn, a strong point of “No Escape.” The agile camera never stays quiet for too long, which helps in keeping every scene at a high level of tension.

The prologue of the film is a flashforward, which shows the assassination of the country’s prime minister figure in his luxurious home. While it is beautifully shot, the scene is a bit useless at that moment since it is never used again. It looks as an afterthought, and not as an important part of the film. This killing could have been shown later, when tension would have been higher and viewers would have more context. The scene feels out of place.

As far as acting goes, Wilson builds his character as the family protector extremely well since scene one. He seems older and more experienced, different from his comical look in films like “The Internship.” This added seriousness and family orientation makes his character likeable since early on.

The wife Annie (Lake Bell) is a strong woman, but also one who has fears and knows she cannot be strong all the time. In the beginning of the film, her crying in the restroom away from everyone is a powerful moment. We see a layer of her character that wasn’t shown before. She now needs her own quiet time, away from her family obligations. This scene shows a multilayered character and one who isn’t a superhero, just like the rest of us. We can easily identify with her fears.

Guiding this family to survival is Hammond, a quirky British man played by Pierce Brosnan, who brings a lot of his 007 days to this new work. His incredible control of guns and fearlessness before dangerous situations remind us of his 007 films. He creates a fun and important character out of a more secondary role.

 “No Escape” is a movie that doesn’t “hang around” and one that the big screen experience helps in making it more intense. Although it can inspire all kinds of social commentary about the first and third worlds, the film is much better when enjoyed as a pure thriller, not as a drama nor a document of reality.