A Surprisingly Effective Thriller
No Exit is a decent little thriller. It’s not a particularly original or deep film, but it does effectively build tension and does so with a tight-knit ensemble and a simple but engaging story.
There are a fair few twists in here too and although the final act perhaps turns once too many, causing a slight bit of whiplash, there’s enough here to make for a serviceable thriller nonetheless.
The story here centers on a recovering drug addict called Darby. She’s disillusioned with rehab but when she receives a call from the hospital, revealing her mother is suffering from a brain aneurysm, she decides to bust out, stealing a car in the process, to make it there. Unfortunately, a blizzard forces her to take refuge at an isolated highway rest stop, high up in the mountains.
Once there, Darby meets a collection of questionable characters; ex-military Ed, shady Lars, charismatic Ash and a middle-aged lady named Sandi.
When Darby discovers a van parked outside holding a little girl in the back, gagged and bound, she realizes one among them is responsible for the kidnapping. But who?
What follows is a tense game of cat and mouse, as Darby tries to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not. There’s an ironic game of “Bullshit” thrown in the middle of all this, with the game working surprisingly well to call out character bluffs and show who’s good at telling the truth – and who’s not.
Around the midway point, a couple of well-worked twists really help to up the ante, leading to a bombastic final act that feels quite reminiscent of Hush; the protagonist tries to outsmart the killer and does so in increasingly ambitious and risky ways.
It works well, for the most part, although the message in this movie is all over the shop. The ending seems to point toward gun violence being bad, while there’s a good deal of shade thrown on the US police too. I won’t go into spoilers but suffice to say, not everyone makes it to the finish line here.
Despite a slightly wonky third act, where certain elements occur just for shock value, there’s actually a good deal of tension that’s nurtured throughout the movie and builds up to a lovely little crescendo.
This isn’t as paranoia-inducing or tense as The Thing, nor is it as clever as Hush. Instead, this movie exists somewhere in the realm of decent – and should make for a good Friday night flick.
With a tense atmosphere, good motivations for the characters and a simple but effective premise, No Exit is well worth 90 minutes of your time.
Verdict - 7/10