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Movie Review: A Perfect Getaway

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Warning: This review contains mild spoilers.

A Perfect Getaway is an example of a movie that's set up almost entirely so that it can shock you with its twists and turns. That sort of thing can be fine if it's done well and doesn't detract from the rest of the movie. Unfortunately that's not the case here; what could have been an completely intellectually stimulating film as well as being an occasionally thrilling one, only really ends up being the latter.

A Perfect Getaway follows a newly-wed couple (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) who decide to go on an adventure holiday for their honeymoon on one of the Islands of Hawaii. Once on the island, packed and ready to head out on their trail hike, they hear wind of the news that some murders have taken place on one of the islands and the authorities are looking for a man and a woman as suspects. Whilst on the trail, the couple meet two other couples of whom they start to become suspicious.

This is a film almost ruined by its marketing, with the trailers, in particular, giving away a lot of the best bits, as well as hinting at a possible twist. Unsurprisingly these  best bits are the thriller elements, at which the film exceeds pretty well when the "action" kicks fully into play. Unfortunately any surprise or shock value the twists and turns have (one huge one in particular, which I obviously won't give away)  is lost when you know they're going to be there. The film feels like it's desperately trying to hide the fact that something surprising is always around the corner, masking that with overly-long and frankly needless scenes. There's character development and then there's overindulgence. No prizes for guessing which one A Perfect Getaway represents.

The two leads, played by Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, are instantly likable and very much characters we can root for right from the beginning. They're thrown into a situation that ultimately gets beyond their control, and throughout the movie there's an interesting dynamic between our main couple, who represent the "sweet and innocent," and the twp other couples whose motives are suspect. The other couples are played by Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez (who some may know as Nikki from the TV show Lost), and Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton. The latter two are hardly seen in the film, and seem to represent the more dubious of the two "other couples." Olyphant and Sanchez become main players in this tale of tension.

The mistake A Perfect Getaway makes with its big twist is that it feels put in there just for the sake of it. It takes what feels like a long time to get to the point of the game changing from one thing to something almost completely different, using only sporadic instances of tension and intrigue to get us there. The twist almost feels clever but when you mull it over it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And while you're trying to figure out just what the hell happened, what exactly it's supposed to  mean and how it ties into everything we've seen up until that point, you could be forgiven for missing some of the action ensuing during the last quarter of the movie.

Most of A Perfect Getaway;s enjoyment comes from the foot chases, gunshots, knife play and various other action-thriller sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat. That's what a good thriller is supposed to do. Although it leans a bit too much into "violent for the sake of violent" a few times, it importantly never becomes silly or unbelievable within the context of itself. There's a strange sense that if these things actually happened, this is how they would probably play out. Of course if you look at things from a realistic point of view all the time, there's definitely some suspension of disbelief required here.

So ultimately, A Perfect Getaway is one of those 50/50 type of movies. Towards the end it ramps up the tense and exciting stuff, and it's definitely a fair bit smarter than a lot of similar movies released these days (that may not be saying much, though). The performances are also decent, and overall it's an enjoyable movie for what it is.

However, with a lazy falling back on a needless and rather silly plot twist (that leaves an immeasurable number of frustrating questions open for the viewer), along with a really long build-up to the stuff that makes it a thriller, the film falls short of the sort of level it could have achieved.

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