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“A Perfect Getaway”
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Universal
Release Date:
Special Features:

2 versions of film


While “A Perfect Getaway” is far from groundbreaking cinema, it does manage to keep the audience engaged all throughout. It’s a thriller that plays true to itself by being misleading, which is to say that not everything is as it appears. Consider the first couple of shots; intercut with home video footage of a wedding reception is home video footage of happy newlyweds on their way to their honeymoon. ***

The reception displays the usual mishmash of people, some quiet and complementary, some loud and obnoxious, while the newlyweds display typical post-wedding bliss. There’s a moment at the reception when the groom’s brother playfully has the groom’s head in a headlock, obstructing the groom’s face. As the newlyweds drive through dense tropical foliage, the bride holds the camera while the groom describes one of his brothers in a very unflattering light. ***

If it seems like I’m describing mundane shots that have no bearing on the actual plot, you’ve got another thing coming. But of that, I can say no more. The newlyweds are Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich), and they’re now on their Hawaiian honeymoon, eager to go hiking on an island that can only be reached by boat or by helicopter. They eventually team up with Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), who also enjoy roughing it in the wilderness. ***

What exactly are we supposed to make of these couples? Cliff and Cydney seem fairly happy and healthy, if a little unprepared for the outdoor life. Cliff is the least prepared of all--he can’t even pitch a tent, let alone attempt something like rock climbing. Cydney is kind and approachable, although as time passes, there’s the sense that what she presents as a perfect life is merely a façade. ***

On to Nick and Gina. Nick is a military trained survivalist with a Southern drawl, and boy, does he have some stories to tell. They’re the kind of stories he would like to see in a screenplay, and lo and behold, he meets Cliff, a screenwriter whose first script is now in the pre-production stages of filming up in Canada. ***

Nick, it seems, it quite aware of the conventions certain movies go by, not the least of which is the twist ending in the second act. But this isn’t all he’s aware of, and we know this not only through his dialogue, which is carefully worded, but although through his actions, which are subtle yet significant. He never shouts, and he never threatens, but the man is intense and menacing, someone who should be feared just on general principles. “He’s really difficult to kill,” Gina observes. ***

And speaking of Gina, she’s calmer and a bit more trusting, but she’s worked in the meat section of her hometown Piggly Wiggly, and she knows how to slice open a carcass and disembowel it. ***

Soon, the news begins to spread: A couple has been murdered in Honolulu, and the police suspect both a man and a woman as the culprits. Cliff and Cydney recall a hitchhiking couple they encountered when they first arrived; the woman, Cleo (Marley Shelton), seemed eager to share her wedding photos, but the man, Kale (Chris Hemsworth), was angry and wouldn’t accept the ride. He was especially angry with Cliff, who not only lied but also had a very off-putting tone in his voice. Kale, he later admits, is tired of people always spitting in his face just for the way he looks. ***

Yes, it’s possible that they’re the killers the police are looking for. But what about Nick and Gina? What about Cliff and Cydney? What if it’s no one we’ve seen thus far? After all, there seems to be someone following both couples as they hike, and Nick, armed with a bow and arrow and a hunting knife, wastes no time in trying to get to the bottom of it. Appearances mean nothing in this movie, and we already know that because the concept of the plot twist has already been addressed by Nick. ***

Interestingly, that may be the reason why the film loses some steam during the final twenty minutes. The twist, in all honesty, isn’t all that surprising, and that’s because we know that the nature of “A Perfect Getaway” is to misdirect. I can’t elaborate on this, but rest assured, you’ll know what I mean if you see this movie. ***

This isn’t to say, however, that the twist doesn’t altogether work. What could easily have been a ridiculous copout instead seems plausible. At the very least, it seems plausible within the context of this story. Nevertheless, the first section of “A Perfect Getaway” is stronger, not just in the way that it builds tension, but also in the way it explores character. The single best scene is of Cydney revealing to Gina something she has kept hidden for many years; Jovovich is given the emotional dialogue while Sanchez is given the subtlety of expression, and they play off each other very well. ***

Special Features:

Special Features: This DVD includes both the 98-minute theatrical cut and the 108-minute director’s cut. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen format and features Dolby 5.1 Digital sound. ***

Final Words:

Many moments between Zahn and Olyphant are well done, helped by the fact that the story gives Zahn better range as an actor. On the whole, “A Perfect Getaway” is a conventional yet effective thriller, with an absorbing mystery that actually builds suspense.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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