Running Time: 93 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Ruba Nadda
Country: Canada/South Africa
Language: English & Arabic w/English subtitles
Distributor: IFC Films
Cast: Alexander Siddig, Joshua Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Oded Fehr, Saad Siddiqui, Fadia Nadda, Bonnie Lee Bouman, Jay Anstey
When we read about scores, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of Syrians dying during the current civil war in that mysterious country, we recognize that these are just numbers, statistics. What could make these figures hit home, of course, would be to hone in on just one of the victims. What does a person’s death, disfigurement or disappearance mean to that individual’s loved ones?
Ruba Nadda takes on that theme with INESCAPABLE, graphically illustrating what happens to the father of a young woman, a photographer by trade, who turns up missing in Damascus. He’s not terrified; he takes action. Unlikely that it is for a Canadian to travel to that country with a paranoid government and security forces, writer-director Nadda draws on something even weirder. The devoted dad, who had left his native country for Toronto, Canada, and is now a well-to-do computer engineer, had been tried in absentia in Syria for spying for Israel and sentenced to death. Would you go to a country that would presumably torture and execute you, even in the service of finding your missing daughter?
Probably not, but now you can see what it’s like to have your life turned upside down for the second time by the same government. Alexander Siddig takes on the principal role as Adib, who returns to his home ground without bothering to wait for a visa (he drives over the border from Jordan, bribing the customs officials with booze). He meets with the consul, Paul (Joshua Jackson) at the Canadian embassy, a handsome young man whose knowledge of the daughter is surprisingly and mighty coincidentally intimate, and he is guided and supported during his time by former fiancé, Fatima (Marisa Tomei, almost unrecognizable in the early parts of the story but looking more like her real self later on). Would Adib and Fatima speak English to each other as they do in this movie? Not likely, but it was difficult enough to paint Ms. Tomei’s face and to give her an Arabic accent. To speak Arabic would be even more or a problem for a film that has enough problems of its own.
As Paul zips around melodramatically voicing his tension, punching, kicking and attempting to frustrate various people who try to stop his search, we are aware of the picture’s technical faults. The photography in South Africa, a land of many ethnic groups, which became the location when Jordan and Egypt did not work out, is grainy. The principals need a better fight coordinator as the punching and karate chops are as artificial as those you might find in a live, theatrical forum.
What’s more, the characters outside of Siddig’s are not well drawn. Sayid (Israeli Oded Fehr) acts stiffly and can’t make up his mind whether to shoot his old pal, the one he betrayed a quarter century earlier, or to hug him. The dialogue is as stilted as the actions of the secondary figures, largely a fault of the unconvincing writing. The photos that the Syrian authorities are demanding, pictures that Adib’s daughter took of a man in a compromising position, never do appear.
Muna (Jay Anstey), the daughter in question, had gone to Syria to find out more about her dad, a dangerous mission that, given her dad’s profile could have meant her execution. Maybe Adib should have chatted about his background when he and the young woman were in Toronto, but then you wouldn’t have a movie. Whether we have one now is questionable.
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