One particular type of film I look forward to (when the concept is intriguing) is the 90 minute thriller. Everything you need to know can be set up effectively in the first 15-20 minutes and from there, chaos ensues. 2016’s ‘Hush’ is one that always comes to mind. A unique premise that sets up the isolated location and the lead character all within 20 minutes. For the remainder of the runtime it’s a tense, edge of your seat ride. All of this is to say that while I just recently heard about ‘No Exit’, I was excited to check this one out.
Stranded at at rest stop tucked back in the mountains during a blizzard, Darby (Havana Rose Liu) comes across a child in the back of one of the other four individuals also waiting out the storm. The cast also includes Dale Dickey, Dennis Haysbert, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, and Mila Harris.
Last week I wrote about the newest horror reboot/sequel ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ and the thin characters that cause the stakes, that should be tense, feel shallow and uninteresting. No Exit wastes no time establishing Darby as our central character and giving her just enough backstory to get on board with her as a character. The supporting cast around her are also set up hastily. A card came to pass the time is excellently used to double as both a slight interrogation as well as a “get to know you” sort of thing. On paper, this idea could come across as lazy or cheap, worked to a great degree in the first act.
The backdrop of a small rest stop in the mountains in the midst of a blizzard is the perfect isolated location for this plot to unfold. If you run, you’re likely to loose your way and succumb to the harsh conditions. As what little trust and sense of safety begins to wane it feels like the walls are closing in and this location getting smaller and smaller, ramping up the intensity.
When I’m on board with what a film is showing me, there are instances where I might turn a blind eye to some more obvious elements. Recently as I was in the theater watching Death on the Nile, I was having a surprisingly good time watching the mystery unfold and found myself trying to overlook the more blatant signs pointing to who might be behind the death… on the nile. There were a few key moments throughout this movie that I tried to deny the fact that a certain twist was likely going to be revealed.
The film, while a tight 90 minute feature, does faulted on a few occasions due to the script. A few lines feel a bit out of place and a couple conversations are a bit clunky at pivotal points in the story. While this didn’t take me out of the story or the tense atmosphere, it did make it difficult to fully get on board with the ideas suggested by the characters. It was a small price to pay in an otherwise smart and engaging thriller.
Verdict: ‘No Exit’ is a taut, bloody, 90 minute thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for much of the runtime. At times it does feel a bit predictable, the constant sense of dread and a commanding lead performance by Havana Rose Liu, allowed this film to stand out amongst others in its genre.