Inescapable renews a time-tested formula
TORONTO—Inescapable, a thriller by Syrian-Canadian writer-director Ruba Nadda, has some good things going for it, although none of them include the budget normally required to make an action-thriller in an exotic locale.
For one thing, the film is topical. Nadda set Inescapable in Damascus, Syria, the city of her youth, and the film deals with the subterfuge necessary for survival in a corrupt police state. However, Syria’s civil war made shooting there impossible. Instead, Johannesburg—its burnt hues captured in anamorphic widescreen for what Nadda calls a “vintage Steven Spielberg look”—stands in for Damascus.
Inescapable’s other advantage is its leading man, Alexander Siddig. Born in Sudan and schooled in the U.K. (fun fact: his uncle is Malcolm McDowell), Siddig appeared in Syriana and Julian Schnabel’s Miral, though he is perhaps best known as Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine<.i>./.i
In Inescapable—which opens in Vancouver on Friday (September 21)—Siddig plays Adib Abdel Kareem, a Syrian national who left his homeland under shady circumstances and reinvented himself in Canada. When his daughter goes missing during a trip to Damascus, he returns to find her, confronting secrets of his past pertaining to corrupt secret-service agencies, as well as Fatima (Marisa Tomei), the lover he left behind.
Siddig, in conversation with the Georgia Straight at the Toronto Film Festival, said he was delighted to play an Arab who “isn’t trying to blow up the White House”.
“One of the things I liked best was also one of the most risky things about this project, which was that Ruba was going to attempt something formulaic,” Siddig said. “This was a movie that has been done many times. So I was curious: how was she going to bring something new to this? And does she have the balls, metaphorically speaking, to pull it off?”
“This was my way of making [a film about Syria],” Nadda said. “The only thing I could do is base it on my own experience and not have it be didactic or expository or educational. For me, it was a very simple story of this beautiful man…whose daughter is kidnapped and he would go to the ends of the Earth to save her.”
Though Siddig describes himself as a “supporting-role actor”, Nadda wrote the dashing lead in her previous film, Cairo Time, for him, while his character in Inescapable is partially based on her own “macho, amazing” father.
“It’s formulaic because you know everything is going to turn out all right,” she said. “Sometimes in indie films, they want to do a somersault at the end and say, ‘Surprise, we’re going to kill off the main character.’ But as a filmgoer and as a director, I’m too exhausted for that. I wanted to create a portrait of [an Arab] man who is also a universal father: courageous, chivalrous, and [resourceful] enough to get what he wants, no matter what.”