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John Erick Dowdle managed to write and direct an unexpected action packed thriller. This film would have been the most underrated release of the year, if not for a few scenes that just ruin key moments.
While editing was done in such a way, that you won’t want to get your eyes off the screen, it results in you seeing the flaws that made this movie good instead of great. Nonetheless, being directed by the lesser known John Erick Dowdle, makes up for some of the wrongs and scores high for the effort.
The movie is set in South East Asia, where Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is relocating, along with his family, his wife Annie Dwyer (Lake Bell) and daughters, Lucy Dwyer (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze Dwyer (Claire Geare). As soon as they arrive in the new country, which is to become their home as expats, something does not feel right. They are not being picked up at the airport by the company, instead they have to hitch a ride to the hotel with Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) and Samnang (Thanawut Ketsaro), two individuals that prove to be very valuable to our protagonists later in the plot. With an eerie calm, the situation for Jack Dwyer and his family becomes more and more unnerving as nobody from the company he has come to work for has contacted him.
Next day, as Jack goes to find out what is going on, or at least to find a newspaper to give him some idea of what is happening. As he finally finds a newspaper, but which only has a 3-day old issue, he heads back to the hotel, only to find himself in the middle of a clash between police and protesters. He then makes his way back to the hotel, passing streets where inexplicable rioting, violence and looting is happening. As he reaches the hotel, he and his family find themselves trapped inside, with a mob of people surrounding the building. They then realise that the reason for the riots is the company that Jack came to work for, being hunted as a result. This is where the film makes you move to the edge of the seat until the final scene.
Their first plan is to get out of the hotel, and in between trying to find one of his daughters that wandered off and trying to keep quiet while hearing and seeing people getting killed all around them, they manage to get to the roof. As it stops being a safe place, with a helicopter shooting from above and quite a few protesters breaking the doors down, they take a quick decision to jump onto the roof of a nearby building.
As they are being hunted, and the run moves into the streets and into the night, they try to find shelter at the US embassy. Which, after Jack gets a closer look, he realises that it is far from being safe, with everyone inside either dead or gone. Being spotted by a group of rebels, they try to lose them but end up being cornered. Here is where Hammond and his friend save the day, by getting them to shelter for the night, at the top of a brothel. Jack and Annie find out exactly why and how this whole civil war started, as well as giving them a hint of how to get out of this mess.
Next day, as they are found by rebel forces, Hammond and his friend die but manage to save and keep safe Jack and his family, who now know that they need to get to Vietnam, if they are to survive this.
As they finally manage to find their way along a river and into Vietnam territory, the film ends well for the Dwyer family. And although it was a story about how much one is willing to do in order to protect his loved ones, it might not be truly relevant for everyone out there. Finally, the movie would have scored so much higher if it wasn’t for the final scene, where suddenly the protesters understood English, something that did not happen for the entire movie until then (but if you watch Timbuktu, for instance, you will be truly astonished from start to finish).