Political Film Review #484

Most of No Escape consists of an American couple caught in a civil war in Southeast Asia, seeking to escape their execution by rebels, with little explanation why. The film begins with an assassination of the prime minister, then goes back 19 hours to the air flight of the family of Jack Dwyer (played by Owen Wilson), a civil engineer who has been hired to set up a functioning water system in the capital of an unidentified country that appears to be Cambodia, as the rebels are adorned in Khmer Rouge garb, though filming is in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The morning after the Dwyers arrive, the rebels are on the warpath, and then the Dwyers flee from their hotel through the town, naively even seeking sanctuary in the American Embassy, the place most likely to be attacked. Finally, British spy Hammond (played by Pierce Brosnan) speaks out: The country has been given a loan with the full knowledge that the treasury lacks the funds to pay back the amount. The government has defaulted on the loan, whereupon the company ostensibly providing the civil engineering acquires ownership of the water system. The people are furious that their sovereignty has been violated, so all White foreigners are to be killed, and their dwellings, including hotels, are to be burned by the rebels. At the end of the film, Hammond informs Dwyer that his family’s only route of escape is to cross a river to Vietnam. Of course, loans for infrastructure are rarely provided by private businesses, and acquiring ownership of infrastructure rarely results from loan default, so the plot is unrelated to how international business operates. No Escape, directed by John Erick Dowdle, nevertheless, is the first American film to depict Vietnam as a place of refuge. MH

Theo (played by Theo Ikummaq) is an Intuit in the Arctic, where the landscape and icescape are receding. With a vision that some day the sun will melt all, he is sent by his community to let “elders” in the South know that something must be done. When he arrives in New York and checks into a place to sleep, he has no idea where the elders are or how to contact them. While on the street, a homeless woman, Chloe (Dakota Johnson) befriends him, takes him to her secret abode that is shared with several others, but soon he offers his aboveground pad for them. They design a plan for the group to go to the UN so he can present his case, but they are arrested for unlawful entry. Committed activist Monica (Mira Sorvino) shows up to bail them out and soon finds an organization that will give Theo a platform to articulate his message, which is more eloquent because he is an Intuit personified. Theo offers quite a commentary on the everyday waste of energy by New Yorkers, including climbing more than sixty flights of stairs to visit the organization with his sponsor and his homeless friends rather than taking the elevator. Although the organization accepts the idea, film director Ezna Sands does not allow an entirely happy ending. MH