No Exit Movie Review: Hulu Book Adaptation Is A Tense Thriller
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No Exit Movie Review: Hulu Book Adaptation Of Thriller Is A Tense Nail-biter

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BY February 27, 2022

The latest thriller to hit Hulu is an adaptation of No Exit, a book by Taylor Adams. This is very exciting, at least for me personally, because the book was probably my favorite of 2017. To borrow the lingo of movie trailers, it’s a nonstop thrill ride. To borrow my lingo, it made me feel like I was going to have a heart attack multiple times. Obviously then, I was curious to see how it would work in another format. And we’ll get into that in our review of No Exit the movie, a brand-new thriller currently streaming on Hulu.

Hulu Thriller Strands Its Characters in a Mystery

Like I said, this is an adaptation of, well, No Exit, a book by the same name by Taylor Adams that found its home on Hulu. However, even if you’ve read and loved the book like I did, then there are still some surprises. The basic bones of the story remain the same, though. And it starts with Darby (Havana Rose Liu).

She’s partly through a successful stint in rehab when someone calls with bad news. Darby’s mom has had an aneurysm, and is now in the hospital, teetering between life and death. Darby wants to leave immediately, of course, but she runs into obstacles. The rehab isn’t exactly sanguine about her leaving in the middle of court-ordered treatment, for one thing. And for another, Darby’s sister doesn’t want to deal with springing her from rehab, either.

no exit hulu thriller book adaptation image via Hulu

In flashbacks, we can see that Darby’s addiction was devastating to her family, so her sister’s reticence to help isn’t unsurprising. In addition, her sister is already dealing with their mother’s decline. So, with seemingly no other options, Darby breaks herself out of the facility. It’s actually pretty easy.

It’s not the end of her troubles, though. The weather turns quickly, developing into blizzard conditions. When a police officer wakes Darby, who’s paused to rest, he informs her that they’ve closed the road. She can either go back the way she came, or she can wait it out at a rest area visitors’ center. She’s traveled this far, so she chooses the center.

There are already a few folks waiting there, like Sandi (Dale Dickey), Ed (Dennis Haysbert), Lars (David Rysdahl) and Ash (Danny Ramirez). It’s warm and dry, but there’s no wifi and there’s limited cell service. You have to go outside and roam the parking lot to catch a crumb of a bar. That’s what Darby is doing when she sees something unexpected. It’s not only something she never dreamed that she’d see, but also something no one meant for anyone else to see.

What she sees is a little girl. She’s a captive in the back of someone’s van. Darby must figure out what’s going on, then figure out a way to get help and get out of there. It’ll also help if she can determine which of the people in the center has stolen a child. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Jay (Mila Harris), the little girl, has Addison’s disease and is in desperate need of her medication. I could use a little something for my blood pressure while we’re at it.

No Exit Movie Review: Hulu Thriller Doesn’t Waste This Adaptation of the Source

As I said, this book adaptation makes small changes to the plot. Unless you’re a plot detail purist, though, I don’t think the differences are that consequential. In fact, I think they generally improve upon the already solid source material. For example, they add another layer to Darby, a depth she didn’t necessarily have in the book. Book Darby has a prickly relationship with her family, yes, but making her a recovering addict adds an element of unpredictability. By that, I mean that everyone already thinks she’s a screwup, so she’s basically an IRL unreliable narrator. She’s also never had this level of responsibility before, so there’s always the chance that she’ll just give up and relapse.

After all, it would be so much easier, especially when the tension rises, and the pain starts. And it’s not even her fight, not really, until she makes it so. Why not just keep your head down and your mouth shut? But this goes against what is perhaps the central thesis of both the book and its adaptation, which is the idea that John Donne was right. We are not each floating alone, and most of us are better when we’re fighting for each other. We need support, whether that be in the context of drug rehab or at an isolated rest stop that’s surprisingly awash in possible weapons.

Other themes this film version introduces, including class issues and the failure to support returned combat veterans, are less successful. They play more like interesting diversions, like details that embroider the story, rather than fleshed-out ideas. Similarly, the book ending is different from the movie ending, which I didn’t like much. I feel like the book ending had more emotional heft to it, at least in comparison to the movie’s, which depends on character relationships in which the film didn’t invest enough.

no exit hulu movie review thriller book adaptation image via Hulu

That’s forgivable, though, when the movie is this good as a whole. First of all, and a superficial but important detail in any No Exit review, the movie looks really good. Director Damien Power has style. It’s also just as intense as the book, which is more difficult a feat than you might think at first. Books, of course, often supply us with a character’s inner monologue and motivations. In a book adaptation like this, though, we must rely solely on the actor and their script for illumination.

This Hulu thriller is a nail-biter, but it would all collapse if it didn’t have a strong performer at its center. Luckily, this movie has a winner in Havana Rose Liu. She could easily overplay this role, but she makes much more intriguing choices. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. (I would also like to praise other actors, but I can’t figure out a way to do so without spoilers. So, good job…team.)

Finally, although I didn’t love the ending, I did appreciate the economy of the storytelling. The film is a little slow to start, but once it gets going, it’s heart-pounding. Who took Jay is a mystery, but it’s not really the point. Survival and escape are, and it’s exhilarating to see who will achieve both. This kind of premise can play as ludicrous, but when the movie is as fast and fun as this, you don’t even notice.

No Exit is now playing on Hulu.

Give us your movie review of No Exit and tell us how you’d rate this Hulu thriller and if you think it is a faithful adaptation of the book. Share these or other thoughts in the comments or on our social media.

featured image via Hulu

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]

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