Reviews

A Perfect Getaway

Now open in theaters!

Cast:

Steve Zahn as Cliff

Timothy Olyphant as Nick

Milla Jovovich as Cydney

Kiele Sanchez as Gina

Marley Shelton as Cleo

Chris Hemsworth as Kale

Directed by David Twohy

Writer/director David Twohy’s thriller A Perfect Getaway is more than clever enough to win itself some fans, if probably not a very hefty haul at the competitive summer box office. Set in Hawaii, A Perfect Getaway follows newlyweds Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich, again proving herself to be the go-to genre actress of her generation) on their tropical honeymoon. Cliff is a screenwriter on his way up the Hollywood ladder and Cydney is apparently just happy to start a family with the mild-mannered Cliff. Cliff and Cydney seem smitten with each other, and in a region as full of natural beauty like Hawaii (although the film was actually filmed in Puerto Rico – but a lush locale is still a lush locale, right?), there doesn’t seem to anything to spoil the couple’s idyllic – dare we say perfect? – getaway. Nothing, that is, except for the murder of a young newlywed couple by a male and female pair of killers in the area where Cliff and Cydney have just left. That and the fact that Cliff and Cydney soon cross paths with not one but two couples that could be likely suspects in those killings.

The first couple is the volatile pair of Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) who Cliff and Cydney have an awkward roadside encounter with, earning Cliff the combustible Kale’s instant animosity. After getting away from Kale and Cleo for a time, it’s almost a relief for Cliff and Cydney to come across Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez) along the trail they’re hiking. Sure, Nick is full of bluster and possible bullshit as he tells Cliff and Cydney one credulity-straining story after another of his outrageous deeds and accomplishments – alluding to the fact that he’s some kind of former Special Ops agent. Nick is also fascinated by Cliff’s occupation as a screenwriter and Nick isn’t shy about offering advice to Cliff about how to tell a story. But what the audience has to wonder is whether Cliff is being toyed with by a sociopath.

To say anything further about A Perfect Getaway‘s storyline would be treading too far into spoiler territory. It’s a shame the film’s ad campaign has been selling A Perfect Getaway on the basis of its shocking twist as putting the audience on notice that a twist is coming only knocks the viewing experience off-kilter from the get-go. Once it’s announced that there’ll be a twist, that can’t help but be at least a minor distraction as viewers are made mindful of how information might be spun around. But how a movie is sold is a marketing matter, not an issue for the director, and for his part Twohy has made a very entertaining film.

Seldom celebrated in the same manner that modern day geek faves like directors Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, or Robert Rodriguez are, Twohy’s films – from the underrated time travel tale Grand Tour: Disaster in Time (1992) to the similarly neglected haunted sub film Below (2002) – evince a peculiar, piercing intelligence. He’s clearly informed by pop culture but yet his movies don’t reflect the kind of hermetic devotion to it that tends to excite the fan community (Twohy would never make a Grindhouse or a Sin City, for instance). As a filmmaker, Twohy studiously avoids making much in the way of personal statements but what his films all share is an antipathy for conventional storytelling. In 1996, during the same summer that Independence Day was carpet-bombing multiplexes across the country, Twohy was telling a much more nimble, idiosyncratic sort of alien invasion story with The Arrival. But in sidestepping the expected, Twohy still shows great discipline as a writer. Every turn of the story in A Perfect Getaway is meticulously set-up – and in a way that stands up to actual real-world logic, unlike a Saw film where characters have to jump through hoops of implausibility.

What Twohy geeks out about as a writer and director is the challenge of making his movies as unpredictable as possible while still satisfying the formulaic needs of the genre – whether it be sci-fi (2000′s Pitch Black), action (his script for 1994′s Terminal Velocity made for a wild ride), or psychological suspense. A Perfect Getaway is, by design, a mostly languid journey in its first two thirds, but once Twohy puts all his cards on the table, the film becomes a true nail-biter. Zahn and Olyphant excel in their respective roles and the increasingly vicious cat and mouse games played among the various cast members makes A Perfect Getaway one of the pleasures of the summer movie season.