Starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell. Rated 14A.
There’s a lot to like in the down-to-earth setup of this thriller, starring Owen Wilson as Jack Dwyer, an everyman dad caught up in a coup in an unnamed Asian country the morning after arriving there with his family.
The handheld immediacy of the overthrow’s first horrifying minutes makes each of Jack’s choices both relatable and unthinkable. His mad dash to the hotel pool to fish his oblivious daughter out of the water as the militia mows down every foreigner in sight is particularly heart-stopping. Here’s a guy with no weapons, no martial-arts skills, not even a MacGyver-like brain, just throwing his daughters from one rooftop to another into the arms of his petrified wife, Annie (Lake Bell).
It’s the anti–Mission: Impossible, and for a while it’s really gripping and refreshing.
But some creaky plot gears are exposed when Pierce Brosnan returns after disappearing for more than half the movie, and we find out that the shaggy foreigner he plays is not what he seems (no spoilers here). His role feels like an afterthought, inserted purely to provide exposition and more clichéd thrills. His character’s a likable addition, but a distracting one.
The politics behind the coup and the culpability of certain foreigners are mentioned and then dropped, the better to keep you sympathizing with one white family over the hordes of locals lying dead around them. The sexual politics of Wilson’s Jack having all the bright ideas while Annie hugs their daughters is also not something you want to think too much about.
Director John Erick Dowdle wrote the film with his brother Drew after the duo collaborated on horror films like Quarantine, Devil, and As Above, So Below. They’re good at capturing the horror in this family’s situation but lousy at fleshing out any larger context.
Whether they escape or not doesn’t end up meaning much.