Editor’s Note: Inescapable opens in limited release on Friday February 22nd
It takes a very particular set of skills to raise a family. There is the difficulty of the daily grind, of working hard to support a crowd of oft-ungrateful offspring. There is the strife of dealing with hormone-fuelled attitudes and the irrationality of youth. There is the struggle to find some personal time to unwind amidst the flood of problems and worries lived vicariously. There is the inconvenience of having to fly across the world to rescue your kidnapped daughter from hardened criminals. If the movies are to be believed, the last of these is more common than you might think; following in the footsteps of Taken with eyebrow-cocking closeness is Inescapable, seeing Syrian expatriate Adib return to his homeland—and site of his mysterious past—when his eldest daughter disappears after a detour to investigate her father’s former life.
Try as he might with his absent-minded stares into space and vaguely cryptic allusions to a troubled past, Alexander Siddig is a far cry from leading man material, the plentiful gaps in his screen presence only widened by Nabba’s trepidatious efforts to posit him as the concerned father with the cynical exterior.
Brainless a film as Taken was, it at least had the sense to never let Liam Neeson’s trigger finger stay still for long; plugging the narrative holes with its steady supply of swiftly-dispatched Europeans, stacked as a dam before the gushing tide of xenophobic illogic, it was a movie that held off the resentment it really deserved with the spectacle of witnessing its aged action hero killing everyone. Inescapable, by contrast, keeps its gunplay to a minimum, Adib employing the powers of deduction as his weapon of choice as the film commits to character drama over action thrills. It’s a wise choice, the surface similarities of the plots considered, for writer/director Ruba Nabba to structure her film in this way, yet neither these characters nor the events they sift through offer much of anything to engage the emotions or the intrigue of an audience.
Try as he might with his absent-minded stares into space and vaguely cryptic allusions to a troubled past, Alexander Siddig is a far cry from leading man material, the plentiful gaps in his screen presence only widened by Nabba’s trepidatious efforts to posit him as the concerned father with the cynical exterior. Neither her stagnant dialogue nor Siddig’s stagey mannerisms have the requisite verve to convincingly conceive this character as anything more than an agent of narrative furtherance; Adib progresses through the plot with procedural rigor, as rich in efficiency as he is devoid of discernible emotion. Nabba’s haplessly generic breakdown scenes see him following in the footsteps of hundreds of throwaway protagonists before him as he smashes lamps and silently screams, the muted soundtrack invariably likening his expression to the yawning faces that will passively bear witness to it.
Nabba’s haplessly generic breakdown scenes see him following in the footsteps of hundreds of throwaway protagonists before him as he smashes lamps and silently screams, the muted soundtrack invariably likening his expression to the yawning faces that will passively bear witness to it.
Siddig’s performance and the concomitant lack of emotional engagement is a significant problem indeed, but more immediately troubling is his attempt at a Syrian accent, which wavers in its thickness almost as unsteadily as the film wavers in its tonal trajectory. It’s an issue that besets much of the cast, Nabba’s creaking efforts to steer each exchange toward Anglophone territory giving us a huge array of intonations that vary as much within each sentence as they do from actor to actor. Marisa Tomei manages the most steadily convincing accent of the bunch, wasted though it may be on a character who contributes little more than convenient exposition and a liberal scattering of well-timed plot contrivances. Joshua Jackson’s is a more useful character and performance; playing the Canadian ambassador to Syria with a goofy reactionary sensibility, he often communicates the intended comic effect of the lines directed at him by Siddig, neither evident in the words themselves nor his delivery thereof.
That Inescapable should see release at a time where the primary country of its setting has descended into brutal civil war is an unfortunate accident of timing, yet it draws disquieting attention to the production’s most egregious problem. Irritating though the hapless confluence of uncertain direction and aimless scripting is, its inanity is harmful only to the free time and disposable income of its audience. That it uses the injustice of a police state and the clandestine corruption of a political system that has demonstrably led to such death and destruction as a backdrop and nothing more is a good deal more offensive.
[notification type=”star”]30/100 ~ AWFUL. Following in the footsteps of Taken with eyebrow-cocking closeness, Inescapable is a hapless confluence of uncertain direction and aimless scripting. [/notification]