No Escape Blu-ray Review
Back Behind Enemy Lines
Efficient and effective, No Escape’s tale of a family caught in the middle of a violent coup maintains small-scale tension and terror.Returning comedian Owen Wilson to action duties (following Behind Enemy Lines 15 years ago) we see him cast here as the unexpected hero father whose relocation to South-East Asia finds him and his young family soon put in imminent danger as the assassination of the Prime Minister sparks a coup that sees the streets erupting in violence. Whilst the setting – in a fictitious South-East Asian location which borders Vietnam – requires all too many rampant generalisations, painting the rebels as bloodthirsty villains, the story manages to just about evolve in a fairly natural fashion, as Wilson and his girls (two daughters and wife Lake Bell) escape and evade armed assailants, a helicopter and even a tank in a desperate bid to find somewhere, anywhere, safe in this veritable warzone.Horror director duo, the Dowdle Brothers, certainly know how to crank up the tension and bring home the terror, taking a comparatively microscopic budget and working wonders here to deliver perfectly serviceable action that’s a clear cut above DTV standards (and, let’s face it, you can’t make much even in the DTV realm with $5 Million these days) even if it doesn’t quite sit comfortably alongside its Big Screen Big Budget brethren. A few stylistic flourishes help – although the Dowdle Brothers dally with going overboard in the slo-mo department – as does the cameo presence of a gruff Pierce Brosnan and the everyman likeability of Wilson in the lead, and No Escape ends up being an engaging, enjoying and veritably exciting little action thriller.
Picture QualityNo Escape’s 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the thriller’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, looks good although not quite great. Detail is frequently strong, excelling in key sequences, but also fluctuating somewhat. Skin textures are reasonably well resolved, and clothing tweaks and background nuances still apparent, but a hint of softness seeps into some shots almost at random.
Good but not quite great.
The colour scheme offers up strong tones, again not as rich and deep as you’d have liked, but good enough to get the job done. For a film that is predominantly darkness-enshrouded the fluctuating black levels prove variable, showcasing consummately fluctuating shadow detail: some shots look suitably great, whilst others – often in the very same scene – look more washed out than they rightly should; oftentimes steeped in a hazy mist that robs some of the colours of richness and depth. Digital defects in the way of noise and banding still appear to be kept at bay, although still infrequently evident, along with some light blocking too. It’s a faithful video presentation (particularly given the budget), and veritably good for the most part, and there’s no question that it should satisfy most fans, although it’s neither demo nor reference quality.
Sound QualityThe audio is every bit as engaging and impressive as you might have hoped for.
No Escape’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track provides a welcome accompaniment to the main feature, lapping up crowded airport sequences as much as chaos on the streets, and igniting with assault rifles and explosions which punctuate the action-dominated runtime. Dialogue rises above it all, remaining clear and coherent throughout, keenly disseminated predominately across the fronts and centre channels, whilst the score maintains the tension and keeps the surrounds engaged. It’s the effects coverage which brings the game home, however, delivering punchy and precise surround action, and bringing the LFE channel into constant play as a backer. Overall an excellent, frequently demo-worthy offering.
ExtrasThe extra features match up to the US counterpart release with a trio of solid offerings covering the main bases – an Audio Commentary from the director and his co-writer brother who discuss the production in detail, dipping into the cast and characters, the shoot, locations and narrative tweaks, as well as the more technical aspects of the filmwork; a cluster of 4 short Behind the Scenes Featurettes looking behind the three leads and the writer/director siblings behind the film; and a coupled of short Deleted Scenes with optional Commentary.
Blu-ray VerdictNo Escape may be unexceptional but it provides solid thrills nonetheless.
This UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release may struggle a bit in the video department, but that may well be down to the film's miniscule budget, and the excellent audio and solid selection of extras make up for it somewhat, delivering an overall package that is solid and worthwhile for fans, even if those unfamiliar will consider this probably worthy of a rental at best.
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