A dreary, flaccid, far-fetched “thriller,” Inescapable (available on VOD) arouses the little interest it does due to its locale, Syria, and its time period, early 2011. What topic could be more felicitously chosen? Yet, even forgetting the film was shot in South Africa, Ruba Nada’s subpar direction and screenplay and Teresa Hannigan’s zonked editing waste the opportunity to add any insight into the armed conflict that has already traumatized a people for far too long.
As for the lead actor, Alexander Siddig, who’s best known as Dr. Julian Bashir on the long-running series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, his inability to muster up an iota of charisma or any depth of character is the final nail in this celluloid coffin.
Siddig portrays Adib Abdel Kareem, who escaped to Canada a quarter of a century ago from Syria after being accused falsely of being an Israeli spy. Now with his wife and two daughters, Muna and Leila, he’s created the ideal family. Well, all is ideal until Muna, a photographer, decides to secretly visit Syria to discover her dad’s past, a past apparently not available over the Internet.
Well, six days after her arrival in Damascus, in fact after Muna eats at MarMar, a local eatery, she is detained as a spy. Oh no! Dad has to go back to the old country to save his offspring.
There he hooks up with his old fiancée Fatima (Marissa Tomei), whom he jilted so long ago. Miss Tomei, who appears to have had two days' worth of work in the film, walks about or more often sits down with a wounded look that’s emphasized with enough mascara to makeup a gaggle of 1960s Baltimore biker chicks for a week or two. She’s Inescapable’s lone saving grace.
When Fatima’s not around, Siddig runs about to various menfolk, yelling, “WHERE’S MY DAUGHTER?” Sometimes he gets beaten up rather badly. Once he hits a member of one of Syria’s fifteen secret agencies with a golf club on the noggin, but to little avail. He then tries to kick the guy like Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he comes off more as Barney on The Andy Griffith Show. After Siddig loses this battle, the agent shouts, “Your daughter is a traitor and a whore. Who was her contact at the University?”
Meanwhile, Paul, a Canadian Consular official, heinously played by Joshua Jackson, reminds you why you wish you were watching Argo again.
Clearly meaning Inescapable as an act of love, Ms. Nada, a Canadian filmmaker with Syrian/Palestinian parents, has instead done a great disservice to her gene pool and our film-loving sensibilities. Irksome would be a more appropriate title. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is currently teaching "Queer Theatre" and "Gay and Lesbian Identity in Literature" at The City College of New York and is Coordinator of The Simon H. Rifkind Center. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate,and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.