Movie Review: A Perfect Getaway

By Sean Collier

August 13, 2009

No, I haven't seen The Ruins. Why do you ask?

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David Twohy's sunny summer thriller, A Perfect Getaway, wants to be a horror/mystery in the vein of The Sixth Sense – intriguing and tense enough to entertain if you're not trying to solve the puzzle, while tossing clues if you're the type to play along. The mystery, though, is too obvious; even casual viewers will likely have worked things out well in advance of the big reveal, and there aren't nearly enough twists and turns in the plot to truly keep us on our toes.

If it's not an engaging whodunit, however, A Perfect Getaway is still an entertaining film. Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) are smiling, straight-laced newlyweds romping through a Hawaiian honeymoon, video camera in hand and nerves continually on edge. Word reaches the couple that a similar pair of honeymooners were brutally murdered one island over; all of a sudden, the central casting intense dude/hippie girl couple they met on the road (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton) seem a lot more threatening, and the friendly southern lovers they've been hiking with (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez) are looking more than a bit suspicious as well.


Complicating matters is the location. All three couples have decided to take a day-long trek through thick jungle and sheer cliffs to a secluded beach. The setting deserves a lot of the credit for A Perfect Getaway's modest success; bathing a dark thriller in sunlight lends an alert edge often missing from most scare flicks, which have in recent years grown so dark that it's nearly impossible to even distinguish what's happening in key scenes. Here, our characters can see what's going on around them perfectly, and are constantly studying one another and the depths of the jungle for signs of danger. Of course, the beautiful Hawaiian landscapes are engaging on their own merits, stunningly shot by Mark Plummer.

The pace (if not the mystery) is kept up by Twohy, who capably moves things along towards the big showdown. Having written and/or directed a number of tense films (The Fugitive, Below, The Chronicles of Riddick), he knows how to put his characters on edge without resorting to sound effects and sudden surprises. The paranoia is palpable, if a bit diluted; after all, all three couples can easily assume that the killers are not among them, and they should stop being so suspicious. This mental state – a sort of continuous "should I be worried, here?" – is most effectively conveyed by Zahn and Olyphant, who both get a rare chance to shine. They handily carry the film, with an assist from Sanchez; Jovovich is sort of just along for the ride, and Hemsworth and Shelton are pretty generic.

A Perfect Getaway is nothing if not a perfectly acceptable movie – it lives in that class of mainstream films that doesn't do much to distinguish themselves, but are certainly good enough to while away 90 minutes. There are plenty of films like this – nothing that anyone will get particularly excited about, but a fine choice for a spontaneous trip to the theater, destined to be replayed on cable endlessly. In a summer full of big hits and bigger misses, this is a good kind of film to have around.



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