Thursday, December 01, 2016
The Getaway (1972 film)
Based on the novel by Jim Thompson, The Getaway is the story of a criminal who is released from prison by his wife as they’re both on the run following a botched bank robbery as well as what the wife had to do to get her husband released. Directed by Sam Peckinpah and screenplay by Walter Hill, the film is a neo-noir film that explores a couple trying to survive while with things that nearly destroyed their marriage. Starring Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Al Letteri, Sally Struthers, Bo Hopkins, Jack Dodson, and Slim Pickens. The Getaway is a thrilling and compelling film from Sam Peckinpah.
The film follows a couple who go on the run after a robbery for a businessman went wrong as some secrets are unveiled that make things more complicated for this married couple. It’s a simple film that isn’t just about relationships and what some will do to help that person but also the severity of these sacrifices. Walter Hill’s screenplay doesn’t just show the intense love that Carter “Doc” McCoy (Steve McQueen) and his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) have for each other but also in the situation they’re in as play into corruption and deals of the worst kind. Especially as Doc is serving prison time for his own work as a robber as he is being denied parole until Carol makes a deal with the corrupt businessman Jack Beynon (Ben Johnson) to release Doc but Doc would have to perform a bank robbery with two other men.
Doc does the deal but the robbery doesn’t go well as one of his accomplices in Rudy (Al Letteri) would try to create a double-cross that failed only for Doc to realize he’s being double-crossed by Beynon who would reveal what Carol did to get Doc out of prison. Hill does create a unique structure where the first half is about Doc’s release, the botched robbery, and the ill-fated meeting with Beynon after the robbery while its second half is about Doc and Carol on the run as they ponder the future of their marriage. Yet, they’re being pursued by Beynon’s men and a wounded Rudy as well as the law where it just adds to the trouble that the McCoys would have to endure. Even as they try to make it to El Paso, Texas and reach the border with nearly half-a-million dollars which Beynon’s men and Rudy want.
Sam Peckinpah’s direction definitely bear a lot of the stylistic elements he’s known for with its usage of slow-motion to capture some of the graphic violence as well as its disdain for aspects of the modern world. Shot in various cities around Texas including San Antonio and El Paso, the film does have the feel of a western but it meshes with element of noir though not on a visual sense for the latter. While Peckinpah uses a lot of wide shots for the locations as well as some intense scenes in the violence. He would favor something that is more intimate as it relates to the McCoys’ relationship with each other as well as some of the characters they meet. Notably the scene after the botched robbery where there is this air of tension between Doc and Beynon as it has a lot of what is happening where it does play into the elements of film noir.
By the time the film reaches the second half where much of it is spent on the road where the McCoys are on the run. There is a looseness to the direction while Peckinpah would also maintain some suspense as it relates to a sequence involving a con man in a train or car chases involving the cops. The scenes on the road also pertain to Rudy where he holds a veterinarian and his wife hostage as it would create more issues as the wife would fall for Rudy. The climax is set at a hotel where many criminals would hide out as it is quite bloody as well as display some intricate framing in how Peckinpah would play into the suspense to see if the McCoys can survive the attack from all of these forces who doesn’t just want the money but also the McCoys dead. Overall, Peckinpah creates a captivating and gripping film about a married couple going on the run with nearly half-a-million dollars in cash.
Cinematographer Lucien Ballard does excellent work with the film‘s very sunny and colorful cinematography for many of the daytime exterior locations as well as some of the interiors while using low-key lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Robert L. Wolfe does fantastic work with the editing with its usage of slow-motion cuts, jump-cuts, and other stylistic moments to play into the suspense and violence. Art directors Angelo P. Graham and Ted Haworth, with set decorator George R. Nelson, do amazing work with the look of Beynon‘s house and office as well as the hotel that many of the criminals stay at near El Paso.
Sound editor Michael Colgan and Josef von Stroheim do superb work with the sound as it play into the chaotic sounds of gunfire and violence as well as some of the moments involving the car chases and dumpster truck scene. The film’s music by Quincy Jones is brilliant for its jazz-like score with elements of rock, country, and funk as it play into the energy of the film as well as some of the somber moments as it is a highlight of the film.
The casting by Patricia Mock is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Dub Taylor as the hotel owner Laughlin, Bo Hopkins as a robber in part of the heist who would fuck things up accidentally, Richard Bright as the con man that tried to steal the bag of money from Carol, Roy Jenson as Beynon’s business partner Cully, Jack Dodson as the veterinarian named Harold whom Rudy would hold hostage to fix him up, and Slim Pickens in a brief yet superb performance as a cowboy Doc and Carol would meet as he is just so fun to watch in his brief cameo. Sally Struthers is pretty good as Harold’s wife Fran who would fall for Rudy as she does whatever she can to help Rudy while being frightened by the chaos around her. Al Letteri is fantastic as Rudy as a robber who tries to double-cross Doc as he would survive their encounter as he goes after him and Carol.
Ben Johnson is excellent as Jack Beynon as a corrupt businessman who would use his influence to get Doc out on parole but he would also do things to Doc that would just push the McCoys to the edge. Finally, there’s the duo of Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in remarkable performances in their respective roles as Doc and Carol McCoy. McQueen provides that sense of bravado and grittiness to his performance as a robber that knows everything but would display some vulnerability and humility into what his wife had to do to get him out of jail. MacGraw’s performance as Carol shows a woman that is desperate to help her husband anyway she can as she then feels disappointed and ponders if she made the right decision. McQueen and MacGraw definitely display some chemistry that bring some realism to the couple in the way they love each other as well as express their own frustrations as it plays true to the world of noir.
The Getaway is a phenomenal from Sam Peckinpah that features great performances from Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. Featuring a superb supporting cast, gorgeous locations, thrilling action, and a snazzy score from Quincy Jones. The film is one of Peckinpah’s more accessible films as well as a great blend of noir and suspense with bits of the western. In the end, The Getaway is an incredible film from Sam Peckinpah.
Sam Peckinpah Films: The Deadly Companions - Ride the High Country - Major Dundee - Noon Wine - The Wild Bunch - The Ballad of Cable Hogue - Straw Dogs - Junior Bonner - Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia - The Killer Elite - Cross of Iron - Convoy - The Osterman Weekend - The Auteurs #62: Sam Peckinpah
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