Monday, August 31, 2015

Escape from Southeast Asia

The latest feature from director John Erick Dowdle (‘Quarantine,’ ‘Devil ‘and ‘As Above, So Below’) isn’t his typical B-movie horror schlock but a taut and gripping trapped-in-a-hostile-foreign-land political thriller in the tradition of 'The Killing Fields,' ‘Under Fire,’ ‘Missing’ and ‘Salvador.’  While I’m not comparing ‘No Escape’ to these earlier films, it is still an exemplary work of tightly wound suspense and nail-biting tension that’s guaranteed to keep you riveted at the edge of your seat.
Jack (Owen Wilson) and Annie (Lake Bell) Dwyer and their two young girls arrive in an unspecified southeast Asian country (it's Thailand, wink-wink) to start a new life because daddy just got a new job when a bloody coup d'é·tat topples the existing American-friendly regime and all hell breaks loose.  In the ensuing chaos, open season is declared on Americans along with other westerners, and the Dwyers suddenly find themselves running for dear life.  If you thought the bat-shit crazy Iranian mob that deposed the Shah and stormed the US embassy in Tehran back in ’79 was horrible, wait til you see these zombies, uh, Asians overcome by bloodlust in action.

Largely due to its depiction of the aforementioned Asians as sadistic, faceless monsters out for blood, or hapless victims themselves serving as so much collateral damage, critics have lambasted ‘No Escape’ as being “racist” and backward-thinking in regards to human nature.  But that’s really missing the point, because other than a watered down attempt by Pierce Brosnan’s character (an ex CIA operator and corporate "private contractor" named Hammond) to explain what may have caused the Asians to behave like a mob of rampaging orks, the movie is no more - and no less - than a simple tale of survival in the midst of life-and-death peril.  With its story centered on a sympathetic young American family, perhaps ‘No Escape’ is guilty of manipulation, but much like ‘’71’ (read about it here: this movie can be devastatingly effective on a primal and visceral level even while it taps into our collective post-Benghazi anxieties.

Grade: A-
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