‘Ello cupcakes. As you know I usually review horror films for my mate the Craggus, so this is a bit of a change for me. Having said that, this movie epitomizes why I generally stick to traditional horror films: real life horror is so much more difficult to stomach.
Centred on the Dwyer family, the film follows Dad Jack (Owen Wilson), Mum Annie (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters as they make the move from America to an unspecified South East Asian country. Jack has a new job and the family are all relocating with him, which is quite the adventure in itself. However, it turns out to be slightly more adventurous than they had bargained for. Our naïve protagonist clearly hadn’t don’t any research into his new company or else he would have found out about the fierce local opposition to the company and its plans and because of this he walks his family right into the middle of a highly organised rebel uprising.
The Dwyers get one good(ish) night’s sleep and then all hell breaks loose. In scenes akin to a zombie apocalypse film like “28 Days Later” or “Dawn Of The Dead”, the action kicks off with aggressive clashes between police in riot gear and locals armed with sticks and Molotov cocktails. Back at the hotel, after seeing a foreigner being executed by the rebels, Jack faces a race against time to find his family, hide from the murderous rioters and then evade them while trying to seek refuge on the roof. This is when the real horror of their situation is hit home for me, and what sets it apart from the grisly fun of horror: You can’t dismiss the fantasy of the situation when it’s people causing the terror and inflicting it on other people.
There was a scene early on that really disturbed me. Shortly after the action has kicked off at break-neck speed some the guests have made it to the roof of the hotel. In order for our family to escape they must leap to the roof of a neighbouring hotel. I’m not ashamed to say this scene made me cry. I held my breath! I love the grotesqueness of a well-made classical horror film but I struggle to enjoy a film that depicts the abject terror someone must feel when they have to throw their child from one building to another putting them at risk of falling to their death rather than try to hide knowing that too would mean certain death. The ‘I might harm you or they will kill you’ option is never a good one but in the world we live in today when wars are televised and coups are very public this film made me feel sick knowing that people all over the world have to live with decisions like this all the time. They might not have to attempt a jump from one rooftop to another but you only need to open a newspaper or turn on the TV to see stories of desperate people fleeing persecution only to lose their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean or the people terrorised, abused and abducted by armed militia and religious zealots.
Sorry for getting all serious for a moment, I realize this is a film review and not a political forum, but honestly, this is why I find this sort of film so difficult to watch. Having said all that, for it to have evoked all that emotion and provoked that much thought I can’t conclude that this film was anything other than great. The fast paced action, the brutal terror and the genuine need to ensure this family make it are so well put together. The only thing that let this film down a little for me was the use of Pierce Brosnan’s character Hammond to deliver clunky exposition. Don’t get me wrong: Brosnan’s good value in the movie, bringing disarming humour (and also disarming the bad guys) but he’s saddled with carrying a lot of the back story to make the plot work.
A pretty great thriller, if sometimes uncomfortable viewing. I enjoyed it but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to watch it again.