NO ESCAPE (2015)

August 25, 2015

no escape Greetings again from the darkness. An effective thriller must either put real people smack dab in the middle of believable peril or facilitate the suspension of disbelief. This latest from writer/director John Erick Dowdle (co-written with his brother Drew Dowdle) takes bits of each of those approaches and provides a pretty intense ride … despite the mostly nonsensical happenings.

We pick up Owen Wilson and his family while on an a transatlantic flight to his new job in some unnamed Asian country that we later learn is just a couple miles down river from the Vietnam border. Not long after their arrival, the generic Prime Minister of this unnamed country is assassinated. The rebel forces responsible for the coup were evidently motivated by the political ploy of Owen’s company, and they aim to kill him.

Lake Bell plays Owen’s wife, and the two of them spend most of the movie on the run together while protecting their two young daughters. Ahh yes, the daughters. While watching this, it made me think that the writers must not be parents, as the kids’ reactions to this extraordinarily dangerous situation involves excessive whimpering combined with whining for food. Anyone without kids will certainly not want any after watching this.

One of the family’s earliest escape sequences involves leaping from one rooftop to another, and all I could think of was how fortunate that this was not a typical American family who, shall we say, struggles with the effects of a fast food diet. In addition to the long jump, Owen Wilson takes over the record for best on screen child toss … an underappreciated cinematic category.

The writers do deserve credit for understanding that Owen and his little family were insufficient to hold our attention for the full run, so they threw in a bizarre super agent played by Pierce Brosnan … or Liam Neeson, or Bruce Willis, or maybe Chuck Norris. No, no – it really was Pierce Brosnan. Action sequences appear spontaneously with Brosnan’s character, as do the funniest lines … and the Kenny Rogers taxi company.

There do seem to be some conflicting story lines. On one hand the big Western corporation is cast as the villain who cares only to capitalize on the local citizens, yet on the other hand, we as viewers are supposed to root for the cute white family as they run from the rebels. Perhaps this is over-thinking … something the filmmakers won’t be accused of.

Most movie lovers enjoy a thriller that creates tension, and there is no shortage of intensity here. Just don’t expect to buy into everything you see.

watch the trailer:

 


DEVIL (2010)

September 18, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness. For those of us who enjoy trying to make sense of the unexplainable, M. Night Shyamalan is one filmmaker for whom we always hold out hope. Wisely backing away from the director’s chair this time, Mr. Shyamalan created the story and produced the film. While not extraordinary, it is one of his best in quite awhile.

The beauty of the story is its simplicity. It is actually presented to us in the form of folk legend through the narrator. Basically, the devil sometimes takes human form and proceeds to steal souls … often in the process, innocent (and not so innocent) people are killed. Here five seemingly random people end up in the same elevator and all hell breaks loose (literally). The detective called to the scene is battling his own internal demons and, of course, that plays a major role in how the story develops and ends.

A mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green), a young woman (Bojana Novakic from Drag Me To Hell), an old woman (Jenny O’Hara), a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) and a mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend) are joined together in the claustrophobic nightmare of a stuck elevator. One by one, each is affected. All the while, distrust abounds. Chris Messina plays the talented detective trying to rescue them and fruitlessly apply logic to the unexplained happenings occurring right before his eyes.

The film begins with an extended, disorienting upside-down view of downtown Philly, and then proceeds to take us through some unusual camera angles into the building, down the elevator shaft and into the lobby. This is our initial intro to the unlucky five. It’s a very interesting start to an entertaining thriller.

The director is John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) and he does an effective job of creating fear within the confined space of the elevator. He manages to create camera angles despite the lack of space. The use of the security camera and booth is brilliant and allows the viewer to be both inside and outside … both are frightening in their own way. Welcome back, Mr. Shyamalan!

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: You can suspend disbelief and enjoy a creepy thriller OR if just the thought of being stuck in an elevator makes you queasy and weak in the knees.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF:  Your idea of a great weekend is a documentary festival OR if just the thought of being stuck in an elevator makes you queasy and weak in the knees.