We need to talk about Pierce Brosnan. No, seriously, we do. With Daniel Craig hanging up his license to kill, and as the search for a new James Bond begins, the inevitable debate on who was the best 007 is starting up again. That question, however, is a no-brainer: Pierce Brosnan is the best Bond, and the truest embodiment of the character created by Ian Fleming. The real question, however, is what film can claim the title as the best Pierce Brosnan movie? Spoiler alert: it isn’t any of his Bond films.
Defining which film in an actor’s career is their best is a subjective argument to make, because everyone has different ideas on what makes a film great. Brosnan has already said he can’t stand watching himself play Bond. That’s understandable, because although he was the greatest Bond, his films were hampered by sub-par writing and too many tongue-in-cheek catchphrases to count. So although the Bond films are the most well-known of the Brosnan films, the best Pierce Brosnan movie is one you might not expect: a thriller from 2015 called No Escape. And he isn’t even the lead.
At this point, you might be laughing or rolling your eyes at the claim that an Owen Wilson action film with so-so reviews could claim the title of best Pierce Brosnan movie. Stay with me here, because I think I can defend this statement. First, I think an actor’s best film isn’t one which is the most successful or the most critically acclaimed. If so, then the Bond films or even movies like Mamma Mia!, The Tailor of Panama, or The Thomas Crown Affair or even the upcoming Black Adam would be considered the best Pierce Brosnan movie. I consider an actor’s best film a movie that best utilizes an actor’s strengths, so he or she becomes indispensable to the story it tells.
In the case of Pierce Brosnan, that makes it difficult to choose just one, because I believe he is an exceptional actor, and one who doesn’t get the respect he deserves. His body of work is incredibly diverse–drama, action, comedy, musical–he has done them all, and excelled in each genre. If you’ve seen the Mamma Mia! movies or Quest for Camelot, you know the man can sing. If you’ve watched Mrs. Doubtfire or Mars Attacks, you know he can make you laugh. And although it can’t be considered in the running for best Pierce Brosnan movie, the AMC series The Son features his finest dramatic performance (watch it if you haven’t, it’s fantastic).
In No Escape, however, he is not only the catalyst to making the plot believable, he adds an emotional level more compelling than the tension Owen Wilson and co-star Lake Bell provide. Brosnan plays Hammond, a British national seemingly existing from drink to drink as he lives the high life in an unnamed Southeast Asian country. As he is going about his days, he meets the characters played by Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, who are there with their family for a conference. The country suddenly plunges into revolution, and Americans become targets to be shot.
Pierce Brosnan is introduced early on in the movie, and he quickly drops hints that he isn’t the carefree soul he appears to be. We inevitably learn that he is a former undercover operative whose past has broken him, essentially a fizzled-out James Bond. He becomes the key to helping the family in their quest to safety, and without spoiling the ending, you’re pulling for him more than you ever did when he was Bond. So take a bow, No Escape, you’re the best Pierce Brosnan movie, because without exploiting his Bond persona, you brought out the gravitas he exudes, and the emotional depth that gives audiences something to connect with. It’s a title well earned.
No Escape is playing now on the Tubi streaming service. It’s a free service, available on computers and smart TVs and as a Roku channel. You’ll have to deal with a few oddly-placed commercial breaks, but it’s a great way to watch the best Pierce Brosnan movie without having to spend money on it.