“Speed” meets “Nick of Time,” with a splash of “The Italian Job” and a just a hint of “Phone Booth.”
I have very little to say about “Getaway.” Which isn’t a bad thing, actually. It means that while I have no glories to extol, neither do I have any quarrels to delineate. This is one of those cases in which one does well to manage one’s expectations going in, so let’s talk about that a bit.
Personally, I had no expectations. Only a question: “What are we in for here?” And secondarily a thought: “I hope Ethan Hawke enjoys a decent result.” He enjoys a Lifetime Pass from me for his bathtub scene in "Training Day," so I’m always in his corner.
“Getaway” brings us a tale of mayhem during one night in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria, where former professional race car driver Brent Magna (Magna? Really? Okay, onward.) finds himself coerced into driving a stolen, armored Shelby Super Snake into virtually every public gathering place in town. Our man Brent is a peaceful guy, but if he doesn't comply and perform well, his kidnapped wife won’t be coming home. Enter “The Kid,” a self-directed teenager who makes the mistake of trying to seize the vehicle at gunpoint, only to find herself along for a ride that made me want some chiropractic after.
First the obvious: the action. To my experience it was not unpleasant, but one-note with three spikes of excellent, one of which was superb. The madman’s plan has our man Brent essentially destroying a city just a bit smaller than Houston, so there are no sweeping expanses such as those we experienced with “Speed”. Occurring in darkness and close quarters, the action is claustrophobic, its chaos often reminiscent of the chase in "The Town." But some of it is quite fabulously shot and edited indeed (including festivals, red lights, and an abrupt traffic stop late in the game).
Its failing is that it’s essentially the same chase over and over… and over. The pattern is relieved once we begin to grasp the mystery villain’s larger plan, which helps substantially. It’s worth noting, however, that people with strong technical interest and reasoned opinions are vilifying the actual filming itself with regard to camera angles, type of equipment used, etc. (there is no CGI, which is rather nice, much like “Jack Reacher”).
Regular readers know I hone more in on the story than the technical particulars of execution, so I will not comment on the technicalities, but it they are of import to you, then it’s worth bearing in mind. I noticed the elements they refer to, but assumed they were a deliberate matter of taste vs. sub-par production. Didn't love 'em, but didn't hate 'em.
In my view, we’re not supposed to grasp all the action, however; that’s rather the point of Selena Gomez’s point of view, and the testament to Ethan Hawke’s abilities as he responds to situations beyond the capacity of mere automotive mortals.
So the story then (which the aforementioned technical critics are ignoring entirely or blasting as being shallow): not bad at all, really. Deep? Heck no. Solid? You bet.
What there is, is surprisingly substantial. Information is rendered in arguably-uninspiring snippets of dialogue and broad-stroke flashback, but they paint a picture of mature love, restoration, estrangement, adaptation to failure, self-confidence, self-respect, self-interest vs. compassion and sacrifice, cooperation, and the value of intelligence and the pursuit of excellence.
It’s my magic wish that every teenager see “Getaway”, and in point of fact it’s the absolutely perfect option for such a date night or group get-together. There’s something for everyone, and it portrays a smart, self-respecting, and conventionally attractive girl who values being educated. (But notably still believable ~ she spends a substantial portion of the film focused exclusively on her own upset and interests, to the point that, since Brent wasn’t allowed to put her out of the car, I wondered why he didn’t just knock her out…)
It’s quite the nice foil for the garbage that girls are fed by the pop culture. Toss in for good measure that the adult male is kind, protective, respectful, relational, self-aware, and devoted to his wife. The teens’ll be more caught up in the action, but the portrayal is a parent’s blissful subliminal message.
Sadly for them, “Getaway” probably isn’t the gritty thriller the filmmakers were after, but they actually produced quite an excellent perennial for the teen demographic and nice option for parents. I’m very glad it’s in the world.
AND… while we’re on the subject of dizzying speed, commandeering of indestructible vehicles, eluding of dogged authorities, and Jon Voight…
You really owe it to yourself to see “Runaway Train”. (And no, “Unstoppable” doesn’t cut it. Not even close. Not by a longshot.)
Jon Voight was nominated for a leading Oscar, Eric Roberts for supporting, and Editing took a nod as well ~ and all most deservedly so. Though from 1985 and therefore bereft of “Getaway”’s dazzling gadgetry, it won’t feel in the least dated. Its themes, its environment, its actions are just as relevant now as they were then. It also contains a Qualifying Role for Rebecca DeMornay. (Surprise! I know, right?)
How serious am I? Enough that I’d say you should subscribe to Blockbuster.com for a month and rent it (thanks a lot, Netflix). Don’t do the trial. Give them the month and reward them for carrying it even though it’s older (heck, I think I might do that). In fact, as it happens the Blu-Ray just released this past July 30th, so it may be available everywhere sooner than later. (I cannot WAIT to see it in HD, holy cow.)
You will love it, I can virtually guarantee it. Every single person who’s taken me up on this entreaty over the years has initially balked at the apparently boring premise (two escaped convicts stow away on a locomotive that turns runaway), and then thanked me profusely and wide-eyed for having pressed the point.
I’ve seen 2700+ titles as of this writing (seriously, click here and then click Search), and “Runaway Train” remains one of the best, certainly Top 50, maybe Top 15. It’s a superthriller. Suspenseful, heart-pounding, gritty, unbelievably compelling, stunningly filmed, and packing an emotional punch for the ages. “Runaway Train” carries thoughts that will wind their way into your soul and live there forever (in a good way, perhaps contrary to appearances).
And as with “Getaway,” I encourage parents to put it in front of their kids the minute they’re emotionally ready to handle some true drama (see them yourself first to make certain, of course). The nuance might not quite sink in, but the action sure will, and it’s a good one to have incubating as one walks through life.
It’s really quite a nice pairing. Thank you, Mr. Voight.
Story: A former race car driver finds himself coerced into high-speed criminal service by his wife's mysterious kidnapper.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Jon Voight, Selena Gomez
Directed by: Courtney Solomon
Running time: 90 minutes
Official site: http://www.getawaymovie.com/
Houston release date: August 30, 2013
Tickets: Check Fandango.com or your local listings
Screened Aug 27th at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX