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TORONTO — For those viewers who can suspend their disbelief enough to accept Marisa Tomei playing a native Syrian woman named Fatima, writer-director Ruba Nadda’s Damascus-set thriller Inescapable may be just about palatable. But that casting choice is really only one of many unconvincing decisions in this contrived Canadian mash-up of Taken and Not Without My Daughter, and despite a hot button setting, the film will at best break out to local theatrical and worldwide ancillary slots following its Toronto premiere.
It’s not as if the concept weren’t juicy enough: Syrian-born, Toronto-based executive Adib (Alexander Siddig) learns that his daughter has gone missing in the country he mysteriously fled several decades ago. With no choice but to sneak back in to find her, he clandestinely traverses the border and teams up with an old flame (Tomei), then crosses paths with a suspicious embassy employee (Joshua Jackson of Fringe fame) and a crooked defense agent (Oded Fehr) as he searches for his lost child.
But a decent pitch does not a thriller make, and Nadda (whose 2009 film Cairo Time received the Canadian feature prize at Toronto, along with plenty of critical acclaim) shows little flair for building suspense or weaving a credible intrigue, leaving a bunch of unanswered questions (such as: Why does everyone in Damascus speak English to a native-born Arab?), even if the stifling Syrian bureaucracy is rather well depicted.
Such drawbacks prevent Inescapable from being anything but nominally intriguing, and the handful of action sequences—most of them occurring in the final 15 minutes—veer towards telefilm territory, their impact further reduced by a pervasive and generic score that just keeps on coming.
Siddig has proved himself a better performer in movies like Espion(s) or The Last Legion, and overreaches in scenes where he tears up his hotel room or yells, “I’m not leaving without my daughter!” for the umpteenth time. While Tomei does an alright job, her presence among an otherwise authentic Middle Eastern cast is distracting, leading one to suspect that she was chosen primarily for film financing purposes.
The Canadian co-production was shot on location in South Africa and Lebanon, with cinematographer Luc Montpellier (Take This Waltz) convincingly capturing some of the local sights and sounds.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Gala Presentation)
Production companies: Foundry Films, Out of Africa Entertainment
Cast: Alexander Siddig, Marisa Tomei, Joshua Jackson, Oded Fehr
Director, screenwriters: Ruba Nadda
Producers: Daniel Iron, Lance Samuels
Executive producers: Kirk D’Amico, Mark Slone, Christine Vachon
Director of photography: Luc Montpellier
Production designer: Bobby Cardoso
Music: Geo Hoehn
Editor: Teresa Hannigan
Sales: Myriad Pictures
No rating, 91 minutes
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