Saturday 24 November 2012
A PERFECT GETAWAY
(David Twohy, 2009)
Writer-director Twohy, who made the fantastically effective sci-fi b film Pitch Black, here demonstrates that his understanding of genre dynamics extend to the more mainstream end of things - in this case a seemingly anonymously generic thriller.
The set-up is almost perfect in its bland familiarity: three couples cross paths in a remote area of Hawaii. The police are hunting a similar couple, wanted for a grisly double-murder in Honolulu, and suspicions are naturally aroused. Tensions and undercurrents crackle between them as they journey through the jungle to a famously isolated and beautiful beach.
This self aware spectacle is all kinds of fun, twisting and turning through revelations and double crosses all the way through, beautifully shot and edited and nicely directed by Twohy.
It plays oh so smartly with audience expectation and genre convention; Twohy knows precisely what should happen, and sometimes he even delivers it. Only upon reflection we realise that what we thought we saw is not what we actually saw.
That might make A Perfect Getaway sound like gimmickry, but it is solidly built upon great characterisation and strong performances: Timothy Olyphant has a great time as a loquacious "American Jedi" ex-Special Forces soldier, Milla Jovovich thrives away from the numbing repetition of fighting zombies in video game adaptations, and Steve Zahn shows he has some range beyond quirky smart-mouths for perhaps the first time ever. There is more there too, if you want it - a telling, well-observed study of coupledom, its compromises and shared understandings, and a believable, authentic portrayal of the weird chemistry of a holiday encounter: instant bonds formed between strangers and the tensions that ensue. Only here that all ends in gunplay, desperate chases through the tropical forest and knives flung through the air.
It is the kind of film that plays well on a first viewing but improves with subsequent watches - its layers and cleverness only truly revealed with an awareness of the final act reveals and reversals. Then it seems hilariously funny in its teasing of the viewer, as well as gripping and enormously entertaining.