No Escape: Solid Action Soiled by Outdated Portrayal of South East Asia
There has been much controversy surrounding No Escape. Starring Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Lake Bell, the action flick has been accused of not being very nice in its portrayal of South East Asians. You see, No Escape is set in Laos, where we find a rebel group executing the Laos Prime Minister, before being taken to the side of Jack Dwyer (Wilson); an engineer moving to Laos with his wife, Annie (Bell), to work at an American firm. Upon landing, he is met by enigmatic British expat, Hammond (Brosnan). Ariving at the hotel, Jack becomes suspicious of the fact that the internet, phone lines and televisions aren’t working and his suspicions are confirmed when he wakes up the next day to find the surrounding area a battlefield as rebel forces take over the city.
Starting at breakneck speed, No Escape, is an interesting take on the genre, considering the continuing relevance of the Arab Spring and the other similarly sticky post-coup situations that have become all too frequent.
The basic notion of a family fighting to escape a world that’s not theirs is engaging enough, but the rebels’ true motives, who they overthrew and why is never intelligently explored, making this something of a missed opportunity to produce an examination of political instability in third-and-developing-world countries and their impact on the world politics.
But that’s a little too much to ask of director and co-writer, John Erick Dowdle, whose expertise lies in horror. It’s something that shines through at time; some scenes, showing hoards of executed civilians, are a little more graphic than you’d find in a film starring Owen Wilson. There’s a solid ride of a film in here, made all the stronger by the robust and aptly affected performances of its three main characters. But it’s almost impossible to get away from the fact that the film’s worldview is horribly outdated and, quite frankly, little offensive. The locals are either savages or collateral damage; there isn’t even really a strong character native to the setting, as is usually and generically done in these types of film, to give Laos a redeeming feature.
In the end, the most explicit of messages seems to suggest that these American lives are more valuable than anyone else’s and that’s a message, regardless of how unintentional, that many are becoming increasingly wary of. Political correctness aside, it’s just bad filmmaking.