As the first quarter of an hour rolls by in Damien Power’s sophomore outing in the director’s chair, I was immediately lulled into a false sense of security and my expectations of what lay in store was grossly misunderstood on my part.
I should have known better, as Power has more than proved himself in the dark thriller terrain with his debut feature Killing Ground; a must watch if you haven’t caught it yet.
Part of my initial interpretation of the early moments in the film fell to my preconception that I had the movie pegged, or should I say the character Darby Thorne (Havana Rose Liu) sussed as the down and out recovering addict, stuck in rehab without much care for the world around her. So far, so two dimensional.
The trick that Power pulls off here is that nothing is what it appears to be, and no one should be judged on face value.
When Darby hears that her mother has been taken to hospital, she breaks out of rehab, steals a car and hightails her way to try and be by her side, but as the film’s title suggests, to escape is easier said than done. And our demons will always be with us unless we face up to them. Sometimes that takes a crisis to occur in order to shift the balance towards resolution, for good or ill.
The barrier in this instance to Darby’s goal comes with a heavy snowfall and she is encouraged by Corporal Ron Hill to take refuge at the local visitor’s centre until the weather blows over. Begrudgingly she does so and encounters four other refugees seeking shelter; married couple Ed (Dennis Haysbert) and Shandi (Dale Dickey), Ash (Danny Ramirez), and Lars (David Rhysdal). Naturally, when strangers meet there is the awkwardness thrust upon them as they are forced to share the space together. The icebreaker comes in the form of a came of ‘bullshit’; and with it the symbolism inherent throughout where they must try and work out who is telling the truth and who is harbouring a dark secret.
Darby then uncovers one of these secrets when she unwittingly finds a girl tied and bound in the back of one of the vans outside. Now she must work out who is behind this kidnapping and find a way out of this snowbound nightmare.
Once again Damien Power proves masterful when it comes to directing a thriller that pulsates along with gripping unease. The balance of power shifts and undulates throughout the film leaving the viewer pondering if there will be any rest for our protagonist. If Darby is to have any hope of doing so, she must battle tooth and nail to do so.
While it falls short in some places, No Exit offers enough ebbs and flows to keep you entertained to its conclusion.
- Saul Muerte
No Exit is currently streaming on Disney Plus in Australia