Written by: Adam Vaughn | September 17th, 2020
No Escape (Will Wernick, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
It’s no secret that director Will Wernick is a fan of escape-room-themed cinematic experiences, coming off his first film, Escape Room, in 2017. However, No Escape finds a way to keep the story interesting enough to make it through a feature-film timeframe and still have a fresh, new take on the sub-genre. The film follows-social media influencer Cole, who seeks to take his vlog to a new level by traveling to Moscow, Russia, to experience the “most intense” escape room known to man, only to find himself in a hellish struggle for survival against a band of criminal torture artists.
No Escape starts with an upbeat introduction to the plot, which helps move the exposition along smoothly and quickly, while also introducing small thematic elements and characters that are revisited later in the film. Among these elements is Cole’s “social media” screen, which ties into the latter portion of the film in a chilling and thematically impactful way. The film spends most of the duration building Cole (Keegan Allen) as his vlog-journey-gone-wrong starts to twist and distort his sanity, leading to the fateful moment at the finale.
The film certainly keeps a solid momentum and pace as the horror ensues about midway, and one admirable note about the thrills in this film is its execution of the various “traps” that Cole and his friends find themselves in. Suspense is easily built via these looming death snares hanging over the group, yet it is done without the use of gore and blood (compared to films such as the Saw franchise that chooses a brutally gross route). Much is said with minimal use of gimmicky moments to propel the main characters through the story.
Yet as the film starts to reach its third act, the script seems to derail and lose its former sense of rationality and causation. Characters’ development and sense of reason start to fall short, and the story’s sense of believability turns to contradicting and convenient plot points. No Escape has a similar problem that many films fall victim to, in the sense that the writing seems to lose its direction and struggles to get us to the climactic ending. However, Wernick does manage to hit us with an intriguing finale that leaves the viewer thinking of the repercussions of social-media trends. And as clichéd as the film starts to get midway, Wernick does keep track of the themes and ideas that he’s introduced from the start, and ties them together by the final image of the film.