Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2013
Directed by: Ruba Nadda
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
What begins as straightforward story of a harmless ex-spy trying to save his abducted daughter from a brutal and despotic regime transforms into a dark tale in which the good, as well as the bad, have shades of gray and it is impossible for the characters to escape the consequences of their actions no matter how far they run. That’s “Inescapable” for you. The basic plot will inevitably be compared with that of “Taken.” However, writer-director Ruba Nadda’s decision to choose Syria as the backdrop for the story, combined with imaginative characterization, ensures that the movie stands on its own.
The movie opens on the life and routine of Adib Abdel Kareem (Alexander Siddig), an affable and polite computer expert leading a happy life with his wife and two daughters in Toronto. It becomes evident that there is more to Adib than what meets the eye when he picks a lock in his office with inexplicable ease and, rather unreasonably, wants his family members to avoid Syria at all cost.
His photographer daughter, piqued by his intense fear about visiting Syria, flies into Damascus on an impulse, only to be abducted without a trace. We then discover that Adib was once a spy in Syrian military intelligence and fled the country to escape certain death after being accused of being an Israeli spy. Rather predictably, he reenters the country he deserted to save his daughter from certain death.
There have been many movies in which a battle-weary spy who gave it all up finds himself forced to get back into the dangerous game to save his innocent family members from torture and death at the hands of the villains. However, “Inescapable” strikes a different note by introducing shades of gray and making it difficult for the audience to sympathize with the protagonist’s predicament.
Adib enters the country with the help of a seemingly sympathetic Canadian embassy official named Paul (Joshua Jackson) and reestablishes contact with his ex-colleague Fatima (Marisa Tomei), a Russian fixer named Detlev (Danny Keogh) with contacts in high and low places, and Adib’s former friend Sayyid (Oded Fehr). Fatima turns out to be Adib’s ex-fiancé whom he dumped when he fled the country, and Sayyid turns out to be a high-ranking officer in the intelligence service who, as the audience later discovers, is interested in a lot more than just helping an old friend.
The director subtly creates a sense of thrill and suspense by contrasting the worried father’s eagerness to help his daughter with the selfish motivations of his former friends. The suspense turns into disbelief when it is evident that Adib’s past is not as clean and pure as he would like others to believe. This turns “Inescapable” into not just a rescue mission but also a journey in which Adib comes to terms with his past sins and unsettled debts.
After the relaxed and languid “Cairo Time,” “Inescapable” is clearly an attempt by director Ruba Nadda to expand her repertoire and enhance her reputation as a versatile director. She has done a remarkably good job detailing the love-hate relationship that Fatima has with Adib. Marisa Tomei stands out in a great performance as a Syrian intelligence officer who hates the hero for selfishly deserting her but loves him enough to help him find his precious daughter. This internal conflict has been etched beautifully by the director, and Tomei’s skilled portrayal makes it evident how Fatima wants to help and hurt Adib at the same time.
Alexander Siddig does a decent job of portraying an earnest father who wants to save his daughter before she ends up paying the price for the mistakes he committed in the past. The character loses a lot of sympathy as his failings come to the fore. Alexander does a good job highlighting Adib’s fear that his past may, in the end, catch up with him. This frustration is evident when Adib finds it impossible to maintain his cool and loses his temper in frustration.
Joshua Jackson stands out as a seemingly ordinary embassy official who, like all others, is working towards his own personal agenda.
On the whole, the movie does a good job of rising beyond being an ordinary father-rescues-daughter mission and ends up as a dark, grim tale of a man who has no option but to stand up to his past and face the unavoidable consequences of his decisions.