Past the Popcorn: Owen Wilson Connects with Audiences in No Escape

by Jeff Walls

Actor Owen Wilson is mostly known for his comedies, but over the years he has shown some quality dramatic chops in movies such as Midnight in Paris and Marley & Me.  In the new movie No Escape, Wilson has his most intense and dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines.  Both movies are stories of survival, with No Escape pushing the actor’s character to the very limits of humanity.

The movie is set in an unnamed country in Southeast Asia where Wilson’s engineer Jack Dwyer is moving his wife and two daughters so that he may take a job helping to solidify the country’s water supply.  Unfortunately, they have arrived on the same day that a rebel militia has assassinated the country’s Prime Minister and taken over the streets.  The rebels have no love lost for foreigners and plan to execute each and every one that they come across.

In order to survive, Jack and his family need to always stay ten steps ahead of the assaulting mob in hopes of reaching a safe haven.  Fortunately, they have made one friend upon their arrival: a British citizen played by Pierce Brosnan whose true identity and purpose for being there is saved for later in the movie (no, he’s not James Bond).  The violence will push the Dwyer family to the very limits as they are forced to make some difficult choices in order to survive.

no-escape-insetDirector John Erick Dowdle and his co-writer/brother Drew Dowdle have succeeded in creating a tension-filled thriller that keeps its audience on the edge of its seat throughout its runtime.  The movie hardly stops to allow either the audience or its characters to breathe and it is better for it.  There are a few scenes, such as the one in which Dwyer must throw his daughter from the roof of one building to another, one that has dominated the film’s marketing campaign, that do push the limits of believability to the point that it drew some chuckles from the audience, but for the most part the movie succeeds in creating an atmosphere that has the audience holding its breath.

As for its star, Owen Wilson is thoroughly believable as a father asked to go great lengths for his family’s survival.  It helps that he is not an established action star as that grounds his character and makes him more relatable to those of us in the audience.  Lake Bell is also very good as his wife who must also go to places no real life mother should ever have to worry about.  Pierce Brosnan is the established action star of the bunch and so it is not terribly surprising when he shows up to help out, but the movie needs that kind of presence also.

The movie’s nerve-wracking tension and horrifying violence will probably mean that this is a movie that few people will have a desire to see more than once (if at all), but for fans of tense stories of desperate survival, No Escape is certainly worth the price of admission.

No Escape opens today at the Regal Parkway Plaza Stadium 12 and the AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? It’s reportedly gonna happen! Until then, eat local before you go!

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