Movie of the Week 76
No Escape 2015 drama, action, thriller
No Escape was one of the best movies of 2015 and inspired the stupidest PC backlash. Very few action-thrillers are as exciting and intense as this film. The film portrays a chilling examination of what happens to strangers in a strange land when the rule of law is turned upside down and chaos ensures.
The movie opens in an unnamed Asian nation (we are later given enough hints to place the story in Cambodia, much to their exasperation.) The leader, wearing a dressy military uniform, is meeting with a Western businessman. We see the scene from the point of view of the ruler’s bodyguard—he tastes the tea his boss is served, presumably checking for poison, and walks the businessman to his car after the meeting ends. But that turns out to be a fatal mistake: When the sovereign is left alone, rebels strike. Locked out of the house, the bodyguard sprints to another entrance as we hear sounds of gunfire; by the time he arrives on the scene, the leader is dead.
The movie quickly shifts to the Dwyer family aboard a wide body passenger jet - a caption informs the audience that the timeline has shifted 17 hours before the start of the violent coup. And into this ticking bomb flies the Dwyer family – Jack (Owen Wilson) and wife Annie (Bell Lake) and two cute little girls – I would guess Breeze age four and sister Lucy age eight years old. Breeze still carries around her favorite stuffed animal. The scene of the family in the airplane does a good job of introducing the Dwyers and creating a very believable family unit. The script is tight; informing us in short order that Jack Dwyer is an engineer who has taken a family expat assignment with a multinational corporation to construct a modern water plant in the Asian nation. Annie and Breeze briefly interact with a nearby passenger named Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a Brit with a friendly, wry sense of humor that charms little Breeze.
We shift to the hectic, crowded airport with the Dwyers pushing a heavily loaded luggage cart with two little girls in tow. In short order Jack senses that things are off; his international cell phone does not work and a driver assigned to pick them up at the airport is a no-show. Jack and Annie are befuddled, and then Hammond, nonchalant and confident, sweeps in to the rescue. “I have been here fifteen times, and I warn you about these guys yelling at you for a taxi.” Hammond offers the family a lift to their hotel in his ride – The Kenny Rogers bus. The bus and the colorful driver provide a delightful comic relief.
The Dwyers settle in at the hotel only to find the TV and telephone do not work. Anne yells at Jack, “This is not a third world country. It is the fourth world.” Jack, in his naturally awkward manner, skulks off to the lobby to get some help. The discussion with desk clerk is fruitless, so Jack decides to go to the bar for a beer, and there is Hammond again – up on the Karaoke stage belting out a song. He and Jack chat after the performance and he gives Jack, and the audience, a strong impression that he is a sex tourist. He tells Jack he is off to a strip club but first will slip into his sweat pants to let them know, “he means business.”
After a restless, uncomfortably night, Jack awakes early and quietly slips out of the room to fetch a newspaper. The front desk clerk informs Jack that the papers were not delivered, so he hikes over to the nearby market square to find a news stand. Tall, blonde, dressed in khaki pants and blue collared shirt, Jack is the only foreigner around and sticks out like sore thumb in the street market. No big deal until everything suddenly changes for the worst. Much, much worse. Jack notices that the shops are closing down, and quickly rolling shut their metal doors. He is shocked to discover that he’s literally stuck in the middle of a street demonstration with riot cops on one side and rock-throwing revolutionaries on the other. Jack watches in horror as a cop shoots and kills one of the rebels, and all hell breaks loose.
From then on, Jack is on the run for his life and his family’s safety. Chased by a mob, Jack rushes back to the hotel to protect his family, and meets Hammond on the stairway. This time we see the true Hammond; he is in full warrior mode and armed with a semi-auto pistol, “Go to the roof,” he shouts to Jack. In order to stay alive, the Dwyers must stay ten steps ahead of the brutal mob. Aiding in their quest is Hammond who serves as a guardian angel showing up just in the nick of time when the family needs to be rescued.
It is a white genocide in full brutal force on the screen – the whites are chased down and bludgeoned to death with clubs. The lucky ones get a quick bullet in the brain. We see unarmed civilians on their knees lined up in the street in order to be run over by a truck, and violent rebels hacking tourists apart with machetes. In one very nasty scene, the rebels attempt to rape Annie in front of Jack and their two children.
Director John Erick Dowdle has crafted a claustrophobically tense thriller. There’s a real sense of doom on all sides, an idea that safety is impossible. No Escape is not for the weak—but it’s perfect for anyone interested in taking a terrifying journey into the heart of human darkness from the safety of your cozy living room.
There was a confused PC backlash against No Escape claiming that the film is racist against Orientals. Is the criticism justified? No, not at all if you consider the history of Cambodia. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Khmer Republic and took over Cambodia. The KR Party was a nationalistic, racist, Marxist and very violent. Ben Kiernan, Director of Genocide Studies at Yale University, estimated nearly two million Cambodians and foreigners died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge during Pol Pot’s purification purge. That was about 25% of Cambodian population in 1975. So don’t tell me the Cambodians are all non-violent pacifists. Fill your boots and go visit some of the hundreds of mass grave sites in Cambodia where mountains of human skulls have been excavated. The amount of evidence is overwhelming. This is not to say that present day Cambodia is an unsafe place to visit, but until they come up with something more interesting than displays of human skulls – I’ll pass.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.