With streamers like Netflix, Disney, Amazon and more pumping out movies every other week, it’s hard to differentiate the trash from the treasure. Yet there is still an opportunity for new faces and emerging filmmakers to have their due. No Exit is one of those films. Set up like a mix of Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, and those actions films from the 1990s, No Exit finds a way to make a splash in the giant pool that is weekly releases on streaming.
Directed by Damien Power and based on the thriller novel by Taylor Adams, Darby (Havana Rose Liu) learns that her mother is in the hospital and decides to escape the rehab facility she’s in to get to her. This premise doesn’t exactly play out as one would hope but adds to the anxiety she faces as she drives through a blizzard in Utah. Instructed to go to a rest stop until the snow lessens, she meets four other stranded travellers. Ash (Danny Ramirez), Lars (David Rysdahl), Ed (Dennis Haysbert) and Sandi (Dale Dickey). They all make pleasantries and Darby can’t wait to leave. That is until she goes outside and finds a kidnapped girl in a van belonging to one of the people inside. From here the tension ratches up and Darby tries to free the girl by learning who the kidnapper is inside.
The biggest issue with No Exit is that it solves its biggest mystery too early: who owns the van. This sort of makes the rest of the film feel underwhelming but does let the narrative go down a different path than one could expect. There are many twists, some that work and others that are obvious from a mile away. Yet as the film progresses, it becomes more exciting and anxiety-inducing, even if it does require a substantial suspension of belief.
Power is excellent at his craft, bringing a sense of auteurism to the film and making brutal decisions that elevate the film from your standard slasher-esque film. His direction of the actors, and their own performances, are believable, even as the narrative goes off the rails at times. Some character and acting energies are unmatched, but that’s the joy of an ensemble such as this that come together only because of unfortunate circumstances and little else.
Liu carries the film and I know she will be a star in the industry one day. Her character is sympathetic despite her actions and her conclusion feels fitting for the character and is perfectly delivered by the actress. You can’t take your eyes off her. No Exit isn’t perfect. The dialogue feels sloppy, delivery of some twists feels undercooked, moments are trite and leaning into the claustrophobia and tension of the film in its first and second act could have allowed for a more shocking and impactful finale. But it succeeds in not simply becoming another forgettable thriller on a streaming site