A Perfect Getaway is a film that coyly thrills while winking both at itself, its genre, and, the viewer simultaneously. From inception, the viewer is being misled by well-orchestrated deceptions and purposely omitted narrative segments. The viewer is introduced to the traditional goodie-goods, Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich), off on their honeymoon, loving life. They are giddy and jubilant, what we expect for thriller protagonists.
The viewer is then presented with the zinger: There have been recent murders in the island paradise of Hawaii where the two love birds are vacationing, murders committed by a man and a woman. The viewer is then introduced to two other couples, one, Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton), societal waifs, the other, Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez), vacationers from the mid-west of America. One couple has a criminal record amongst them; another houses a retired soldier and a meat carver.
Writer/director David Twohy cleverly shifts the viewer’s suspicions back and forth between these two couples, each with indicators of malice and the behavioral and mechanical knowledge for having committed the murders. As the protagonists’ suspicions grow and narrow on one particular couple as the killers, so does the viewer’s. The viewer begins seeing the situation as the protagonists see it. There in lies the brilliance of A Perfect Getaway’s script. The film, in every way, was advertised so that the viewer made a default assumption, which makes the reveal an actual surprise.
Along the way, A Perfect Getaway consistently comments on its genre, and by implication, itself. Red Herrings are discussed and viewer is deluged with them from the two couples under suspicion. They tell stories about their pasts, events in their lives that brought them to Hawaii or that formed part of their personalities. One story in particular the viewer will probably never give a second thought to during the first viewing but they should. It’s a Red Herring and an indicator of the real relationship between two characters and how that relationship began.
When the action scenes kick into gear in A Perfect Getaway, there backbone are the ingredients from the character’s past and what the Red Herrings alluded to. We are also given classic black and white sequences that illuminate the past and which clarify that all was never what it seemed.
David Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway is a far better action thriller than the viewer may expect by its first two acts. It’s like a magic trick from Nolan’s The Prestige: the first two acts of A Perfect Getaway are the Pledge and the Turn, and the third act is the Prestige. It’s the realizations housed in the Prestige and the quality of the action surrounding it that make A Perfect Getaway a good getaway for an hour and a half.