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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Untimely Coup

No Escape (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A deceptively peaceful tableau of bird song cuts to a shimmering palace, evoking the ambiance of the Orient—think Thailand. The PM of said undisclosed country has just concluded some important negotiation when the concealed violence of the jungle strikes him dead, and mob rule ensues.

17 Hours Earlier. A tired family aboard Pacific Air is en route (“Are we there yet?”) to either Laos or Cambodia judging by the non-country-specific flight chart displayed for the passengers. Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is looking forward with relish to beginning his new assignment. “I'm loving how unpre­dic­table this hotel is,” he comments when the lights don't work. His wife Annie (Lake Bell) is depressed to the point of crying to her­self in the bathroom. She has brought her rice cooker along as an anchor to her previous domestic life, a piece of frippery in a land where rice is a staple. Their daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins, 11) and her little sister Beeze (Claire Geare) aren't able to sleep, and Lucy is “acting out.”

Hungry for news in the morning Jack discovers there's no TV signal in their room and the Internet connection is down, too. The desk doesn't carry English language newspapers, so Jack steps out to find a news vendor. Here is a cruelly funny sequence, because he is so used to getting his news from a paper or a screen that he's unable to read it plainly on the faces of the people in the street. They've heard about the coup by word of mouth at least (“Zhidao”) and refuse to make eye contact with him, or the buskers to acknowledge his tip. The news vendor keeps his (out-of-date) English news­paper out of sight. He doesn't want to be seen catering to foreigners who have suddenly become personae non grata.

Jack gets a rude awakening when he finds himself stuck in a scrum between the police making a Custer-style last stand, and the blood­thirsty mob summarily executing any foreigner they find. “We're gonna fuckin' die here,” one observes (“Nous sont perdue.”) If he manages to collect his family, he will soon discover him­self with piti­fully few options as “There's a war going on out there.” Their hotel (“We gotta get to the roof”) is targeted as cor­rob­or­ators, his company is being shelled (“There's a tank”), and their last hope (“We gotta get our­selves to the American Embassy”) is kaput. A chance tourist acquaintance, British expatriate Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), how­ever, points out that “the Vietnamese border is a couple miles down­stream” where they may obtain sanctuary as refugees if they make it to the river. At least now we know what country he's in, Cambodia near its capital of Phnom Penh. From there the rivers go down through Vietnam to the sea. The rivers up north in Laos come down from the mountains in Vietnam. And judging from the melee it's no wonder the country they're in didn't want any more specific identification than that.


Earlier upon arrival they were taken by a local taxi driver, Kenny Rogers look-alike (Sahajak Boonthanakit) in his Kenny Rogers Cab (“Do you like Kenny Rogers?”) to the Imperial Lotus Hotel. In its bar some­one was singing, “Mid­night Train to Georgia.” To my knowledge that's not a Kenny Rogers song, but one of his songs concerned meeting “The Gambler” on a train, who offered him advice, saying “Every hand's a winner/ And Every hand's a loser.” Jack's company is “Cardiff Welcomes …,” which sounds to me—rearranging the letters—like an iffy hand of cards. Maybe Jack needs Kenny's advice to survive his iffy situation. The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This wisdom of the gambling man's repartee is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A grey­hound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

We have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” In the office scene when the mob leaves after killing all the employees, having missed Jack and his family who are hiding under the debris, one youthful ruffian revives and starts to raise the alarm until Jack throttles him. This is a time to hold him and not let go. When Jack confesses to Hammond what he did, the expatriate says, “There's no good nor bad here, just get your family the hell out.”

We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers' “Know[ing] when to fold 'em” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects doesn't experience any uprising. When Lucy in hiding complains that she needs to pee, her mom (the guardian of propriety) tells her to go ahead pee her pants. Well, they can't break cover and she can't hold it. It's the time to surrender to nature.

We have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” In the movie they've got to calmly walk away from a hostile crowd in which one of them sees through their disguise but doesn't seem inclined to raise the alarm as long as they don't draw attention to themselves.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers' “Know[ing] when to run.” That corresponds to one chase scene in which they've got to leap one at a time from the roof of one building to another, throwing the kids, or else wait to be executed with the rest.

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Down by the river looking for a punt, Jack was pretty much in the position of Richard III needing, “A Horse! A Horse! My kingdom for a horse.”


At the original negotiating scene with the PM, it was stated, “The dragon of fortune has a long tail.” They probably had some­thing in mind on the order of author David L. Robbins's foreword to one of his (ix):

The fall of Berlin in the spring of 1945 determined much of the political future for the remainder of the twentieth century. Historians agree that the entry of the Red Army into the capital of the Reich, preceded by the American decision to halt the West's armies at the Elbe, was a turning point in Soviet prestige and authority, as well as the fortunes of communism. … Emboldened from the conquest of Berlin the Soviet Union launched into an era of global rivalry with the West. To this day we feel the concussions of Russian bullets scarring the Reichstag, and hear the crunch of boot­steps of Red soldiers past the pillars of the blackened Brandenburg Gate.

The "dragon's long tail" statement was made on the heels of the security guard tasting the negotiators' drinks, using a long straw dipped deep into them to symbolize that tail. This same “tail” image is brought forward again when Lucy takes a dip in the swimming pool down on the fourth floor. Then when the whirly­bird comes for the refugees stranded on the roof, its tail—being longer than the pilot reckoned—gets snagged on a guy wire to the detriment of the bird. It's brought forward again when Lucy being tossed to her mom on the next building, wraps her arms around her dad foiling his pitch. He feels their drag as “we feel the concussions of Russian bullets scarring the Reichstag.”

The dragon image can be superimposed on the great circle arrow chart in the plane coming here, its tail extending back to the states who “have interests in this region.” In fact Jack wears a T–shirt with a map outline of Texas, above which is written: "God Bless Austin." This long tail goes back even further to Jack's story of how Lucy was born. Her mom had to talk her into breathing, hoping she'd recognize her voice from the womb. A newborn can in fact recognize its mother's voice. Studies show they also pick up from the womb the rhythms of the language spoken around them.

And if we want to get into realpolitik, we can consider the great circle path of the plane that was supposed to bring Barack Obama's mom back to the states from Kenya for him to be born in Hawaii. Too long of a flight to allow a nine month pregnant woman aboard, so she had him in Kenya where the speech rhythms learned from the womb include the emphasis on the last two syllables, as is characteristic in all his speeches. In them we're likely to “hear the crunch of boot­steps of Red soldiers past the pillars of the … Brandenburg Gate,” so to soeak. (I discuss this speech anomaly in my review of “Germany, Year Zero.”) We Americans have our own civil unrest under this president. There are several other movies also that touch on the birther controversy, our constitution supposedly protecting us from the influence of that long dragon's tail of non-native born presidents.

Production Values

This film “” (2015), originally entitled “The Coup,” was directed by John Erick Dowdle, having been written by him and his brother Drew Dowdle. It stars Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, and Owen Wilson. Wilson's persona in most of his movie roles is comedic. Here he's cast as the epitome of a loving and doting family man, but he'd be a fine actor anywhere he's cast. He did have one of his first major roles in the action war drama “Behind Enemy Lines” (2001). Lake Bell delivers an awesome performance. The girl actresses who play the children do very well, too.

MPAA rated it R for strong violence including a sexual assault, and for language. In my opinion the strong language can be excused by the exceptional circumstances, and this is explained as well to the girls. It was filmed in Chiang Mai, Thailand and does seem to reflect their country though it's never identified, and indeed the geography is all wrong for the story to be located there. The musical score is highly appropriate. It tightens the suspense while being unobtrusive, and it conveys the correct feel for an Asian country. Marco Beltrami's pulsating score also complements several finely tuned chase sequences. The bright cinema­graphic colors at the film's beginning display the full beauty of the region before those colors fade from the screen as well as from the audience's faces.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is one of the most relentlessly hostile, nonstop thrillers in years. That so much of the brutality happens amidst the wide-eyed scrutiny of young children serves to amplify its potency, so much that even the heroics of gung-ho anti­heroes can't trans­form the appalling into the adventurous. The flow, acting, pacing, and directing make the suddenly inhumane terror of their situation seem perfectly consistent. Lots of hand-held camera-work restively trails our weaving sprinters. This is an action movie made to grip the audience, even one already jaded by lots of Holly­wood pizzazz. If steady action is what you crave, look no further.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed terror. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Robbins, David L. The End of War. New York: Bantam Books, 2000. Print.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. WEB.