“No Escape” is a film so hellbent on giving its audience a nightmarish experience that it pays no mind to its inherently racist premise.
The film follows an American family (headed by Owen Wilson and Lake Bell) as they move from Texas to an anonymous Asian country (it’s never explicitly mentioned, but we later find out it’s close to Vietnam) and get caught in the middle of a violent coup with their two young daughters. They must do whatever it takes to survive while all the Americans are specifically hunted and killed.
While it does achieve its desired level of intensity, “No Escape” is just another entry in a long line of tone-deaf films that place white Americans in perilous situations while completely ignoring the humanity of the natives actually affected by the violence. Whitewashing is nothing new in Hollywood, but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.
Every single “local” on-screen is either a savage inflicting harm on an American, or they’re a corpse. By the end, many are both. None of the natives speak, really, unless the sound of machetes hitting human flesh or a gunshot can be construed as language. The body count here is incredibly high.
It’s a horribly ugly film that appears to take great pleasure in its own misery; it has all the bells and whistles of schlock horror, but wrapped arounda generic, overly-sentimental script. These elements clash throughout and give the film a goofy, inconsistent tone. At one point it literally jumps from a potential rape to a cheesy one-liner.
A geopolitical thriller shouldn’t revel so much in its senseless bloodshed — the film plays like a snuff film that just so happens to feature broad strokes of political implications. From the very opening sequence, in which we cut to a classic horror style logo after multiple locals are brutally murdered, it’s clear the “in-your-face” approach is not a great fit here.
The script only gets more implausible and convenient as it goes along, with Pierce Brosnan playing a character that dips in and out of the film whenever it suits the narrative. The big action sequences (including the one splayed all over the commercials in which Owen Wilson tosses his children off a roof) are all so ridiculous that they earned genuine laughs from the audience. The decidedly gritty and horrific violence is rendered thematically empty considering the film would never dare do any actual harm to its protagonists.
“No Escape” tries to be a bloody horror film, a geopolitical thriller, and an emotional experience all at once, but fails to strike any sort of meaningful balance between the three.
Watch the trailer below.
“No Escape” opens in theatres nationwide on Wednesday, August 26th.
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