What makes a film good? Objectively, it may be aspects like the script, cinematography, score, and lighting but subjectively that’s not such an easy question to answer. One might argue that enjoyment of a film is enough, although this line of thinking may lead to heated discussions with those who don’t agree. There is a lot of grey area in these discussions too. Some parts of a film may be objectively good, while others are objectively bad, but you feel the bad is outweighed by the good. Take, for instance, Hulu’s newest thriller No Exit.
The plot follows a recovering drug addict who finds herself trapped in a community centre with several strangers in the midst of a blizzard. As she gets to know these people, she uncovers a kidnapped young girl in a van in the parking lot, although there’s no way of knowing whose van it is. The tension builds as secrets are revealed and the heroine must decide what the right thing to do is. It’s an excellent premise, told well, but it has several key flaws. The biggest of these is the dialogue, which is often cheesy and predictable. It’s riddled with cliches and exposition but, paired with the acting, it leads to an entertaining first half. No Exit’s tone is serious, or at least it’s trying to be, but the film is more enjoyable as a B-Movie. Even an inexperienced thriller viewer will call the kidnapper early on, although given that this reveal is the mid-point plot twist, it feels as if that doesn’t really matter. The second half contains plenty of twists and turns to continue watching, even if it’s a more glum experience than the first half.
No Exit is, in essence, a bottle story: a term used to describe plots that happen entirely in one location. (Think the fly episode of Breaking Bad or the classic Doctor Who episode Dalek.) Granted, it’s a fairly large location, using the several rooms of the community centre and the parking lot outside, but this is where the action stays. It’s used to great effect in the final act, with the heroes inside the buildings and the villains outside it, in a scene that keeps the tension high. It’s a stunning locale too, bathed in fluffy white snow which perfectly contrasts the villainy taking place. As the plot escalates, so too does the violence, which may inflict a wince from viewers. There’s a gun present for the majority of the second half, but it’s the nail gun and use of said nail gun which make for an uncomfortable half-hour.
The film’s other major flaw is in its display of drug use. The opening scene, set in a rehabilitation centere, is done well and feels genuine but as the film progresses, drugs will remain prominent. The heroine finds a small stash in the car that she uses to escape rehab and contemplates taking it throughout the plot until finally caving during the final act. Until she takes them, this is a really respectful way to portray these issues but she uses them in an act of heroism. This ties taking drugs with heroism in a moment that really doesnt sit right. The moral was so close to being that people are capable of incredible things without drugs, until it fumbles at the final hurdle.
Regardless of the mixed messaging and cliche-filled script, No Exit is still an entertaining way to spend part of an afternoon. It may not delight in the way that filmmakers had intended, but it delights nonetheless.