Syria is not exactly a family friendly tourist spot. Unfortunately, a former secret policeman’s
reticence only intrigued his grown daughter.
When she disappears in Damascus under mysterious circumstances, he must
temporarily return to his former homeland and life of deception in Ruba Nadda’s
Inescapable (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
the Assads are never mentioned by name, their portraits are everywhere in Inescapable’s Damascus. The current civil war never intrudes into the
narrative, but the oppressive atmosphere is unmistakable. Once a promising young operative Adib Abdel
Kareem had to leave Syria in a hurry, for reasons he and his ex-comrade Sayid
Abd Al-Aziz understand only too well.
That is why the senior intelligence officer is slightly surprised when
Kareem shows up in his office, demanding he help the convicted traitor find his
already has the reluctant help of Fatima, the former teammate and lover Kareem
was forced to abandon, for whom Al-Aziz has long carried a torch. While the desperate father checks in with the
Canadian embassy simply so his presence in Syria will be officially recorded,
he soon discovers the smarmy consular officer Paul Ridge is actually well acquainted
with his daughter. It will become a
rather tricky affair, involving a high ranking pedophile in the Syrian
government and Kareem’s old Soviet spymaster colleague.
in Canada, the half-Syrian Nadda obviously has an affinity for the country’s
culture and people, but no affection for the current government. As in the unusually elegant Cairo Time, she sets the mood well. Unfortunately, she is not a master of grabby
thriller pacing. As much as viewers will
want to embrace Inescapable as an
art-house Taken, there is simply too
much back-tracking and narrative down time.
Frankly, Nadda’s screenplay probably would have benefited from some
input from a genre hack. The power
struggles going on in the upper echelons of power are potentially juicy stuff,
but the film tends to lose momentum in rather workaday sequences.
Siddig is a charismatic screen presence, who does a credible slow burn as
Kareem. In contrast, Marisa Tomei’s Fatima
just does not have the right edginess for a femme fatale or the purposefulness
of woman conspiring against a despotic regime.
In truth, it is not really clear what she is there for, besides picking
up Kareem at the border. However,
Israeli Oded Fehr (a veteran of the Israeli Navy, El-Al security, and The Mummy franchise) brings some roguish
style points to the film as Al-Aziz.
Largely shot in South African instead of Syria
and its neighbors, for obvious reasons, Nadda and cinematographer Luc Montpellier
still make it feels like it was filmed in the bazaars and back alleys of Damascus. Indeed, the look and vibe of the picture are
right on target, but the tension is sometimes lacking. Still, Inescapable
is certainly topical, earning Nadda credit for essentially scooping
Hollywood. For those hungry for Middle
East intrigue, Inescapable opens this
Friday (2/22) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Alexander Siddig, Canadian Cinema, Marisa Tomei, Ruba Nadda