Though the weather outside is frightful… it’s probably more terrifying to stay inside.
No Exit tells the story of Darby (Havana Rose Liu), a young woman who currently resides in an addiction treatment centre. When she hears of her mother’s hospitalization, Darby decides that she needs to see her immediately and breaks free from her facility. En route, a terrible blizzard forces her to find shelter in a highway rest area with a small group of strangers. However, when she soon discovers a young girl trapped in one of parked vehicles outside, she finds herself caught in the midst of a terrifying race to uncover the identity of the kidnapper and set the young captive free.
Directed by Damien Power, No Exit is an energetic ride suitable for a night of at-home streaming on a cold night. As the director of Killing Ground, Power has experience in the thriller genre and he puts those tools to good use here. Taking place over the course of one evening, the film has some legitimate twists and keeps the viewer engaged throughout. Set in an offramp conservation station during an intense blizzard, Power uses its confined space to build an atmosphere of claustrophobia. Tight camera work keeps us focused on the faces of the players involved, making their interactions feel like a chess match between potential adversaries. What’s more, with only two or three rooms in use, Powers keeps the characters in each other’s way, forcing them to be involved in their lives for the time being.
While the film doesn’t break any new ground for the genre, Exit’s energy and pacing keep the viewer interested and makes for some light fun. Despite the fact that the film does address multiple issues ranging from drug abuse and child trafficking, none of them are explored in any real depth and merely provide some background to the characters. As a result, though the film seems not to have any particular social agenda, Exit remains propped up by its liveliness. Clocking in at a mere 90 minutes, it’s pacing and brevity keep the film moving quickly and the viewer engaged.
As her first film in a lead role, Liu does a particularly good job conveying an inner strength within her character. As the broken but determined Darby, Liu carries the film with vivacity that never allows the film to drag. While the rest of the cast seem fairly engaged with the material, the other most notable cast member is veteran Dennis Haysbert, who’s calm demeanor provides the film with a much-needed.
Underneath the criminal exploits, No Exit seems interested in asking the question of what defines who we are. Having been all but abandoned by her family due to her past drug addiction, Darby lives a life of isolation. When she hears of her mother’s hospitalization, she is determined to reach her family, despite the fact that they have essentially disowned her. During her time in the off-ramp facility, the motley crew that she encounters do not appear to know anything about one another yet they all seem to believe that they know who she is. Whether she’s referred to as military child or drug addict, numerous labels are thrown around to describe her, both positive or negative. As such, these pieces of her story instantly become identifiers to her new acquaintances. Even so, she refuses to be defined by these moments of her past. Although she may have struggled with addiction, she is more than an addict. Although her father’s military background is a key part of her life, she is more than a ‘military kid’. In this way, No Exit points out that who we were does not necessarily mean that that is who we are. Darby’s story is her own and she will chart her own path forward.
While No Exit may not be particularly memorable, it still delivers the goods for an evening of thrills and entertainment. Despite its flaws, there’s something instantly likeable about the film that keeps you watching. (Any film that can make a simple game of cards feel high stakes must have something going for it.) As such, when this stop on the streaming highway becomes available, this remains an Exit worth taking.
No Exit streams on Hulu in the US and on Disney+ in additional territories on Friday, February 25th, 2022.