The Dowdle Brothers do an excellent job in creating a real sense of fear and urgency in this film, but that's really where the praise ends.
I think the casting was the biggest issue. There were some very serious, very realistic events portrayed in this movie and I felt that maybe Owen Wilson's character was cast to alleviate the tension when those situations got intense, but I don't think it came across as expected/desired. Maybe it was just the writing. Also, I understand the need for the children and the mother figure in this movie, but I felt they could have added much more to their roles. Ultimately, they just felt like baggage. Pierce Brosnan was added as the "action star/inside guy" since Owen Wilson was playing the "father/out of his element" role; sadly, Mr. Brosnan didn't add much to the overall experience, but his final scene was pretty cool.
Plot-wise, the overall mystery of "why is this happening" added to the realism, and while there were some hints once things got started, I think holding off on the reveal until the final act was a mistake. Since the reveal was so simple and expressed nonchalantly, it lacked any real punch, and by that point, I was just waiting for the movie to end.