A Perfect Getaway

After you watch A Perfect Getaway, you’ll think back and wonder if it cheated. The plot revolves around a bunch of people in Hawaii, where there is a killer — or multiple killers — on the loose. We mostly focus on two couples, both of whom suspect the other of being the killers, although they don’t let on. There is also a couple of hitchhikers who may or may not be stalking these other people. But does the film cheat in hiding the killer(s)? I don’t really think so, although it does try its darnedest to not let on.

Our main characters are honeymooners Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich), who travel to Hawaii for a hiking vacation. They plan to spend just three days there, meaning they need to get going. They’re stopped before they begin by the hitchhikers (Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth). She’s friendly but he’s grumpy, and our lead couple end up not giving them a ride. Once on the trail, they encounter another couple named Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez). The two couples decide to hike together. They talk and suspect and are afraid. But our point of view follows Cliff and Cydney, so we care more about them. And they’re frightened after they learn that there is a murderer — or murderers — running about.

So it’s a thriller, one where nobody knows who the murderers are, except for the ones doing the killing. But they won’t let on, and neither will the movie. They all have certain quirks that will make you suspect them, as well as having them suspect each other. Cliff is a screenwriter who has his first script in pre-production, Nick was in the army, had a landmine blow up and caught some shrapnel in the head. But he lived, and now has titanium in his skull. Or so he says. We don’t know if we can believe him, as his stories get more and more outlandish as the film progresses. The women of the film don’t get all that much of a back story until all of the reveals have occurred, which happens in a monochrome flashback that lasts somewhere around ten or fifteen minutes.

I didn’t like this part of A Perfect Getaway. When the film has to explain everything that’s occurred so far, so that we understand what everyone’s part in the mystery is, then I feel it hasn’t left enough clues for us earlier. It’s only after this long flashback that you understand the lengths that the film went to in order to conceal the truth. It’s clever, but it’s very deceptive. It’ll certainly make subsequent viewings interesting, although I don’t know if it’ll make the film better. But you’ll understand why certain characters act the way they do, and why some of their dialogue sequences have dual meanings.

But in the moment, this works fairly well. Even though I figured it out a short while before the film told me what was going on, it had me fooled for most of its runtime. I was constantly trying to figure out who was a killer, and why. You get satisfaction by figuring it out before you’re told, but you have to give the film admiration and respect for fooling you for as long as it does. Since both of those things happened here, A Perfect Getaway ends up looking like an excellent thriller.

Unfortunately, after the reveal, the film still has to end. It ends with a chase scene and a standoff that involves characters we meet just for this one scene. Does that ruin the film? Not really, but it’s a lot worse than the build-up. This takes place right after the flashback, making the final 20-25 minutes of the film feel far worse than everything that led up to the conclusion. Watching these people suspect one another and act cautiously, all while the audience is trying to figure out what’s up, was a lot more fun than watching the revelation play out.

The script, which includes dialogue that is intentionally deceptive, actually includes a lot of funny moments. I was laughing quite a bit more than I expected throughout, which helped me like these characters. Humor is the best way to get someone to instantly like you, after all. It also helps you forget how much the film is trying to trick you, because it’s keeping you in a good mood while doing it.

Take a scene in which Nick and Cliff are talking about script-writing. Nick claims that good thrillers need “red snappers” scattered throughout. What’s a “red snapper”? He meant “red herrings”. Thankfully, Cliff corrects him about that. The entire scene made me laugh, not only because of how it’s delivered to us, but also because I knew it was a harbinger of things to come. I was not wrong in this assumption.

The actors are actually good enough in their roles, or at least, I liked watching them. Olyphant actually ends up being the star of the film, being over-the-top and crazy enough to make him watchable. I also liked seeing Zahn in a role that wasn’t in a slapstick comedy, actually giving him time to act like an actual human being. The other actors are all decent too, with none of them acting in a way that you wouldn’t expect. (Except for, you know, some of them maybe being killers.)

For what it is, A Perfect Getaway is a good mystery thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the end. That’s more or less all you need with this type of film, so I guess it accomplishes that task. It does feel deceptive and manipulative at some points, especially when you find out what’s really going on here, but it stays entertaining throughout, and because of that, is worth a watch.

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