The Getaway (1972 USA)

getaway72sm-cl1b-jktSick and tired of new releases I can’t get through 45 minutes of, I went back to this classic. What a breath of fresh air this heist/chase film turned out to be. At two hours and three minutes, it’s remarkably well paced and tension filled – it never falters. One of the many things that gives 1972’s The Getaway the edge over its now almost-forgotten 1994 remake is that, unlike Alec Baldwin, Steve McQueen doesn’t act like a movie star – he is a movie star. From the days when cool was what you were, not what you wore or owned.

Sam Peckinpah crafted an action movie way ahead of its time; the critics – unsure of what to make of it – took the safe option and castigated it as an average potboiler. In addition to hyper realistic characterizations of the McCoys (played by Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw), everything else about this movie rings true. 44 years later, Peckinpah’s signature slo-motion shoot outs stand up against anything in the theaters today. There’s little to dislike about this motion picture and I can’t help but wonder why movies aren’t made like this anymore: no special FX, no over-the-top stunt sequences, no melodramatic dialogue, no fat, no filler. This is a movie made by real people, for real people. Plain and simple. Lean.

Shot entirely in King Of The Hill territory (Texas), technically, the stand-out aspect within The Getaway is the editing. Influenced by the French New Wave, Peckinpah defies convention by playing with time and space as he uses disjointed cuts to jump ahead in time before allowing the events within the movie to catch up to the present. The most interesting example of this occurs when Doc and Carol are at a busy park alongside a river. Doc has just been released from prison and he’s soaking in the sights and sounds of freedom. Peckinpah cuts to a shot of Doc jumping into the river with his clothes on. At first this feels like a fantasy in Doc’s head since we abruptly cut back to the present where Doc is still standing and looking at the river. But soon he actually does run to and jump into the river.

thegetawayd1003His woman follows his example. From there we cut directly to Carol’s apartment where the two enter soaking wet and smiling. It is atypical and unexpected to see unconventional editing like this in mainstream American movies, but when it’s done (and done right) there is something incredibly rewarding about having your brain (and expectations) teased in such a randomly disjointed (yet fluid) way. Another example of unconventional yet incredibly effective montage happens in the opening thirty minutes. In this sequence Doc McCoy (McQueen) is locked up in prison and slowly losing his wits. Peckinpah portrays Doc’s inner head space through a dizzying montage of shots of Doc in and around the prison, where synced sound cuts smash into one another in a relentlessly pounding and oppressive manner. You get the sense something has to break and before long you realize it’s Doc’s resolve.

Peckinpah films also have an amazing depth to it, due to the way they are being built up while the story is being told. “The Getaway is a movie with criminals and action in it but at the same time the story also manages to be a love drama, when the relationship of the two main characters of the movie is being put under pressure. The two of them float away from each other and at times they are clinging on to each other again, since after all they seemed to be made for each other and form a perfect couple. Peckinpah proves with The Getaway that you don’t need astounding source material to make a great movie. On the written page I’m sure this film seemed like a very standard heist/chase film. But by allowing the actors to bring realistic, idiosyncratic performances to the table and by utilizing unorthodox techniques, such as French New Wave inspired editing, Peckinpah elevates pulp into high art. I know I’m sounding like a broken record by saying this but: where are the artists in Hollywood today?




  1. Great review enjoyed your comments and observations and have been inspired so much to watch the film right now, thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Much obliged. Its positive comments like yours that make a bloggers day!


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