The new film “No Exit” is the kind of snowbound claustrophobic thriller that works very well due to a small and committed cast and the filmmaker’s sharp attention to an ever-building intensity, from which the audience will be allowed no reprieve.

Based on the novel of the same name by Taylor Adams, the film introduces Darby Thorne (a solid Havana Rose Liu), a young woman living in a drug rehabilitation center located in Colorado.

Receiving a call from her estranged family, Darby learns her mother is dying. After being refused the chance to call anyone, she sneaks out of the facility and steals a car.

Traveling through the Rockies, she seeks shelter from a treacherous blizzard, stopping at a remote rest stop where she finds four other stranded souls, a couple Ed and Sandi (Dennis Haysbert and Dale Dickey), young good-looking Ash (Danny Ramirez) and the extremely odd-duck Lars (David Rysdahl).

The mystery begins when, not long after arriving, Darby finds a young girl bound and gagged in the back of a van belonging to one of the strangers.

Written by Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari and directed by Damien Power, “No Exit” sets its tone, becoming a tense and gripping popcorn thriller by way of Agatha Christie, infused with a violent streak.

Havana Rose Liu is very good in the lead role, convincingly portraying her character’s desperation. Darby’s anguish is regarding not only her situation, but also the addiction that, in a roundabout way, led her to be entangled in a very dark situation.

Dickey and Haysbert add gravitas to any role they play, and this film is no exception. The two actors play very well off one another, the two characters finding themselves unsure of their formerly safe surroundings.

Rysdahl and Ramirez do fine supporting work, as the other two strangers who complete the claustrophobic cast of suspects.

When the first reveal comes, it is quite surprising, but there are more twists to be had. The screenplay has fun with the audience and never allows viewers to figure out who to trust.

Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins created the moody score that keeps the audience on edge while never becoming obtrusive, as Simon Raby’s camerawork is subtle but ramps up the intensity as the film’s thrills build.

Director Damien Power knows he has a good screenplay to work with. The filmmaker doesn’t need to be “showy” and stays clear of over- direction, letting the film’s thrills (and a few chills) speak for themselves and allowing his cast room to breathe.

Power achieves some palpable tension once the little girl is found. The audience, nor our main character know who to trust. Everyone is suspect and when the true villain is revealed, the film snowballs into a ticking-clock that will have palms sweaty, and allegiances questioned.

As with any clever thriller, betrayals are coming and a desperate fight for survival is afoot, but one shall find no spoilers here.

“No Exit” is not a thinking-person’s thriller but it is far from brainless.

This is an edge-of-your-seat 95-minute ball of cinematic tension that entertains and is a good picture to watch while chomping your popcorn and surviving these last weeks of winter weather.


No Exit

Written by Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari (based on the book by Taylor Adams)

Directed by Damian Power

Starring Havana Rose Liu, Dennis Haysbert, Dale Dickey, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdal, Mila Harris

R, 95 Minutes, 20th Century Studios