Could I Pull Off These Famous Hero-Dad Movie Moments? An Examination

The Weinstein Company

Today, a movie called No Escape, starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan, opens wide. Here is the entire summary that IMDb has for it:

In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape in an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.

It sounds like a fun movie, or at least an intense movie. The part that I’m most interested in, though, the part I suspect most people are interested in, is this:

In case you can’t quite make sense of what’s happening, Wilson’s character, Jack Dwyer, is throwing one of his daughters across a gap between buildings. He’s doing so because he and a bunch of other people are trapped on a roof with some psychopaths who are walking around killing everyone. Jack tells his wife, Annie (Bell), that the one chance they have at surviving is jumping from the roof of the building they’re on to the roof of the building next to them. But there’s a problem: Their two daughters aren’t big enough to make the jump themselves, so Jack has to throw them to Annie after she jumps. That’s incredible. And it brings to mind two questions.

First, and this one is ultimately less important than the second: In the trailer, the scene cuts out as the little girl is falling toward the second building. I would assume that the toss is successful, that she lands on the other side safely. But let’s say that she didn’t. Let’s say that she came up a few feet short and fell down the 200 or so feet to the ground. (Since we’re pretending, let’s also say that she escapes miraculously unhurt. Let’s say that she lands on a bunch of old mattresses that the hotel the Dwyers were staying at just happened to be throwing out the day before.) Here’s the question: If you’re the other girl, do you still let your dad try to throw you across even though you just watched him fail? She was younger, smaller, and lighter, so it’s not like it’s going to be an easier feat. What do you do? How do you handle that? And if you’re the dad, what do you do? Can you bring yourself to try it again?

Second, and this one is the crux of this particular article: A thing that happens whenever I watch movies like this — or when I see any sort of movie where a dad does something, really — is that I’ll ask myself, “If I were in that exact same position, how would it have ended?” I have three sons and a wife, so it’s natural (and reflexive) for me to imagine myself in those situations. What would I do? How would I handle it? Would I be able to survive the biggest earthquake of all time and rescue my daughter like the Rock’s character did in San Andreas? Would I be able to find my children after our family was ripped apart like Ewan McGregor’s character did in The Impossible? Would I be able to convince myself to fly up into the guts of an alien spaceship like Randy Quaid’s character did in Independence Day? Could I do any of that?

Could I be a Hero Dad?

Could I be …

Jack Dwyer, No Escape

His Hero Dad moment: He tosses his two daughters over a gap to prevent them from being killed.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: I’m pretty confident about this. I’m going high. I have a 95 percent chance of success with this one. The building gap looks to be about 15 feet. But also you have to take into account that the building he’s throwing the girls from is one, maybe two stories higher than the one he’s throwing them to, so really he just has to generate enough force to get them to fall that far. The tiniest kid I have weighs 30 pounds. I could throw him 15 feet on a flat surface, no problem. And I’d switch up the throwing style, too. The trick to getting the best distance when tossing a kid is you put your right hand under his butt so he’s sort of sitting on it like a chair. You lean him forward so that his chest is resting on your left hand. And then you just cock back and shot-put him with all your might. I’d do the same thing with the twins. They each weigh 61 pounds, but they’re a light 61 pounds. They’re all arms and legs. Plus, you have to factor in Dad Strength. Every dad is blessed with Dad Strength as soon as his first child is born. It’s a temporary superheroic burst of energy. You can use it on anything. You can use it to lift a car up off someone’s leg or to throw a football down the block or to carry all the grocery bags from the car to the kitchen in one trip. If you add Dad Strength into the equation — man, a 15-foot throw is nothing. The new problem is you have to just be sure not throw a kid all the way over the second building.

Marlin, Finding Nemo

finding_nemo_marlinPixar Animation

His Hero Dad moment: He treks across the ocean to find his son, who’d been kidnapped by a dentist.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: I’m pretty good in the water. Plus, the most dangerous thing Marlin runs into during his swim is a couple of cartoon sharks who really don’t even want to eat him. I couldn’t beat a shark in real life, but I could definitely beat a cartoon shark who doesn’t want to eat me. There’s a 65 percent chance that I could handle this Hero Dad scenario.

Bryan Mills, Taken

His Hero Dad moment: His daughter goes on a trip to Europe with her friend. They get kidnapped by Albanian human traffickers who intend to sell them to the highest bidder. Bryan flies to Paris, burns the town down looking for her, finds her, brings her home, and then, as if that weren’t enough, gets her one-on-one singing lessons with a pop superstar.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: Yikes. Zero percent. Is there a number less than zero percent? Because then it’s that number. Bryan kills 31 people while he’s looking for his daughter. I’ve never even booked my own flight before. There’s no way anything happens here other than me just losing my daughter, and probably also losing my own life, too. I don’t even think I’d make it through the phone call Bryan has with his daughter while she’s about to get kidnapped without having a breakdown. And I for sure wouldn’t be steady enough to say all that slick shit to Marko that Bryan did. Best-case scenario is I’d say something like, “If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” But it’s more likely I’d get too flustered and jumble up my words, or leave some out, and my badass speech would become, “If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for her, I will find her, and I will kill her. Wait … no. Not her, you. I won’t pursue her, I’ll find you — ah forget it. You know what I mean, dude.” And that’s not very intimidating.

You know who I am in Taken? I’m Amanda’s dad. Amanda is the girl Bryan’s daughter went to Europe with, the one Bryan finds already dead about 30 minutes into the movie. Six months would pass, and I’d be eating breakfast with my wife one day and be like, “Whoa. Wait a second. Have you heard from Amanda lately?” And that would be that. No more Amanda. Rest in peace, Amanda.

John Quincy Archibald, John Q

His Hero Dad moment: He takes a hospital wing hostage in an attempt to get a new heart for his son, who will die if he doesn’t receive one.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: This one is a 50-50 shot. The movie ends with his son getting a heart, but not because of anything that John does. So on the one hand, John Q. totally misplays the situation. I don’t want to say that what he did was an overreaction, because I don’t think there’s any reaction that can be considered “over” when you’re talking about the response to finding out that your child might die. But even if he’d have done literally nothing after finding out that his son needed a heart, it still would’ve ended the same. Matter of fact, it would’ve ended better, because he wouldn’t have had to go away to prison for a bit like he does for the hostage scenario. So that’s my 50 percent yes. My 50 percent no is I’m just not tough enough or mean enough or even mean-looking enough to successfully take hostages. Nobody’s being taken hostage by a guy who got teary-eyed at the end of The Wedding Singer, you know what I’m saying?

Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

His Hero Dad moment: While out hunting, Caesar’s son, Blue Eyes, ignores his dad’s suggestion to stay put, wanders off, then ends up getting attacked by a bear. The instant Caesar hears the bear’s roar, he flies in, tackles the bear, gets between the bear and his son, then starts flexing on the bear.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: FOH. I’m not fighting a bear. You know what happens if a bear attacks my son? Then I’m just here telling you a story about a time a bear attacked my son. I’d throw a rock at it. I’d definitely run and go get help. But that’s it. A bear ain’t on the list of animals I’m willing to fight. That list goes: a sheep, a flamingo, a small zebra, a sloth, and that’s pretty much it. Bears run faster than humans, climb better than humans, AND THEY CAN SWIM, TOO. If a bear wants you dead, then a bear gets you dead.

The only way I’m fighting a bear — and the only reason that Caesar gets into the fight with bear — is as a Dad Reflex. A Dad Reflex is just like a regular reflex, only about 50 times quicker. Same as Dad Strength, you get the Dad Reflex the instant you become a dad. Most often, dads utilize it to protect their offspring, but it can also be activated for self-preservation, like to dodge an attacker’s knife swipe or to click out of a porn window real fast before someone walks past your computer. A Dad Reflex is the closest anyone will ever come to seeing the future. Hyundai actually made a whole commercial about it, which is ironic because Hyundais are last place on the Dad Cars list.

Caesar’s Dad Reflex is very strong. Dad Reflex is a good thing because it’s a protection-inspired action, but sometimes it’s a bad thing because before you know it you’re wrestling a goddamn bear, which is what happened with Caesar. You can tell because if you watch the clip you can see that after the bear tosses Caesar off him, Caesar stands up, realizes he’s looking at a bear, goes, “Oh, shit,” then immediately starts shouting for Koba to come help him. Poor Caesar was in flight before he knew what he was doing.

Zero percent chance this ends successfully for my son and me.

Harry Tasker, True Lies

His Hero Dad moment: He takes a jet and goes to rescue his daughter, Dana, who’s been kidnapped by terrorists. He gets into a fistfight with the main terrorist while still flying the jet. Eventually the terrorist loses his balance, rolls off the wing of the jet, then gets ensnared on one of the jet’s missiles. Tasker then shoots the missile (with the guy still caught on it) through a hole in a building and hits a helicopter full of other terrorists.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: This is going to surprise you, but I’m going 75 percent chance of success here. That’d seem ridiculous, but if you go piece by piece over the scene, it’s actually not that far-fetched. Look:

  1. When Tasker has to fight the terrorist, he has a fighter jet and the terrorist doesn’t. If you’re going to fight a guy and you have a fighter jet and the guy you’re fighting does not have a fighter jet, then you’re at a pretty big advantage.
  2. You’ll notice that Tasker doesn’t really do anything with the jet other than let it float there. Mostly, he’s just holding onto the steering wheel. I can hold a steering wheel like a champion.1
  3. As far as saving Dana goes, Tasker doesn’t actually do much. He’s just sort of there. Dana’s the one who manages to hold onto the cockpit of the jet while Tasker tries to lose the terrorist. Were it not for her own iron-fisted grip, she’d have fallen off that jet 15 different times.

If you swap me out with Dana, then I’m going to die. I’d never be able to stay balanced on the nose of a jet. Swap me out with Tasker, though, and I’m 75 percent sure we’re both getting home OK.

Harry Stamper, Armageddon

His Hero Dad moment: I’m going to list two moments here. First, he finds out that A.J. and his daughter are dating (and in love) and he’s so surprised that he takes a shotgun and shoots at A.J. a few times (it’s clear he doesn’t really want to hit him). Second, when they’re in outer space and it’s been determined that A.J. is the one who has to stay back to detonate the nuclear bomb to destroy the asteroid that’s going to crash into earth, he walks A.J. down to the asteroid’s surface, then yanks out his oxygen tube, shoves him back into the space ship’s loading dock, locks the door, then takes his place. He does so for the long-term happiness of his daughter.

The likelihood of success if I were in that moment: For the shotgun thing, I’m going high. I’ll say there’s a 70 percent chance that that situation plays out the same. The only reason I’m 30 percent hesitant is because I don’t want to accidentally shoot a loved one in the chest and then go to prison for the rest of my life, because that’s what usually happens.

For the self-sacrifice thing, I’m going even higher: 90 percent chance of success, though, to be clear, it’d be for entirely selfish reasons. If there’s any opportunity to be the guy who literally saves the world from annihilation, and it’s in as fantastic a fashion as detonating a nuclear bomb inside an asteroid while I’m still on the asteroid, then I just don’t see how you can say no to that. “Killing yourself to save 7 billion people” is the best justification of an action that I can think of, with “punching Kobe Bryant because he’s Kobe Bryant” a very close second, shout-out to Chris Childs. There’s a 10 percent chance I’d chicken out and just ride that asteroid into the earth’s crust, but I’m almost certain I’d be able to click that detonate button. You’re welcome, 7 billion people I just saved.

Filed Under: Movies, owen wilson, No Escape, Dad Stuff, Dad Levels

Shea Serrano is a staff writer for Grantland. His latest book, The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated and Deconstructed, is a New York Times best seller and is available everywhere.

Archive @ SheaSerrano