November 25, 2015

Blu-ray Review: No Escape (2015)

When I first saw the title No Escape pop up on an upcoming movie list, my mind flashed back to 1994 and wondered if they actually remade the Martin Campbell directed sci-fi/action film that came out that year. You don't remember it? It was pretty good, had a decent cast with Ray Liotta and Lance Henriksen, and reminded one of movies like Escape from New York. Well, obviously they didn't, it is just a coincidence. This No Escape is actually a modern day thriller featuring a family just trying to stay alive. In all honesty, this new film is probably the better of the two, but I think I want to revisit the older one now, see if it holds up.

The 2015 model No Escape is a solid thriller that is highly effective, wastes no time getting to the action, and has an unlikely star leading the way in Owen Wilson. Yes, that Owen Wilson. The movie is the brainchild of the Brothers Dowdle, writer/director John Erick and writer/producer Drew. The duo have built a career on the yet to be officially released The Poughkeepsie Tapes, as well as Quarantine, Devil, and As Above, So Below. This is their first foray outside of the horror genre, but it is easy to see their sensibilities stayed within their wheelhouse. No Escape is just a step removed from being a horror movie and I think this is why I liked it so much.

The movie centers on Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), his wife Annie (Lake Bell), and their two children. He has taken a job with a company that is sending him to a fictional country (which appears to blend Thailand and Cambodia) to work on a water filtration/delivery system. Of course, unbeknownst to him, the country is about to play host to a rebellion against the leadership and the violent rise of xenophobia directed at all outsiders, whom they blame for the bad state the country is in. The thing to remember, all of this is not well developed and explained in the least amount of time possible. It is just window dressing to explain the situation our central family needs to escape from. While there is a bit of a political statement to be had, it is secondary to the tension of the escape.

No Escape is really survival horror for the non-horror crowd. Replace the rebels with zombies, demons, creatures of some sort, and you still have the same movie. The format would not have to change much in order to turn this into a horror movie. In this is the movie's great simplicity. It may make a statement, but it is much more interested in presenting ordinary people in an extraordinary situation, a situation that, through no fault of their own, could lead to their demise. It also stands as a testament to the lengths someone will go through to do what needs to be done for his family, perhaps find redemption for a perceived lack or thought when it comes to them under normal circumstances.

There is a great deal of tension to be found throughout their attempts to escape. For example, the scene on the rooftop where they have to escape to the next building is one of the most tense and terrifying scenes I have seen in a theater this year. Watching them struggle with what has to be done, and the dialogue choices made all add up to an excruciating moment of truth. It just builds from there.

I am not trying to say this is the greatest movie or anything of the sort, but what I am saying is that this is an entertaining and intense film. It is not one to go to for a big complex story, it is about watching a family survive despite great odds. It is dislocated from reality allowing it to function as an an entertainment, it has a brief bit of statement and plot to give you a little to think about, and it gives you an interesting family dynamic to engage you emotionally. It is this last bit that makes it all work and is why you should see it. The thrills are intense and the family is real. No Escape is a solid thriller that knows how to ratchet up the tension and deliver the goods.

The film is presented in a ratio of 1.85:1 and is generally decent looking, but I cannot say it offers much of a wow factor, although, I have to wonder if the wow factor of Blu-ray has worn off? I suppose not, I have seen some spectacular looking films in high definition. There is something about this one that seems a little on the cut rate side. It all looks rather bland with details seeming a bit noisy, not like film grain, just a general lacking to my eye. On the plus side, the DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is pretty engrossing. the sounds come from all directions, there is a solid atmosphere built as shrapnel flies and gunshots pop in the distance.

On the extras side of the coin, there is a commentary track featuring the Dowdle brothers that is a good listen as they cover a number of aspects of the filmmaking. There are a couple of deleted scenes which also feature commentary. Rounding everything out are a couple of behind the scenes clips where they discuss the plot and acting.

Overall, this is a decent package. Yes, the video may be a bit lackluster and needing some depth, but the movie itself is a solid thrill ride. It is not a movie that you will watch for realism, it is not about the setting so much as it is the thrills and action. It really is a horror movie without the usual horror villains. Sit back and enjoy the ride.


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