Getaway’s one of those films where I appreciated the intent a lot more than the execution. Essentially a feature-length car chase scene shot entirely in Bulgaria using hundreds of consumer digital cameras set up every which way, it aims to show breathtaking car crashes, expert stunt driving and kick-ass explosions, all while using next to no CGI.But if we have to care about Ethan Hawke getting his wife back in one piece, we need a little more than black-and-white flashback footage of him and his wife acting lovey dovey through a Final Cut Pro black-and-white filter that’s so clichéd that even wedding videographers won’t even use them.
Yes, all of the car crashes are real, even the ones that look less probable than CG crashes found in the latest Fast and Furious movie. The chase scenes are caught in their entirety through footage from cameras placed on cars, inside cars, underneath cars, all around the streets and even the middle of the road.
As far as I’m concerned, the real star here isn’t Ethan Hawke, but editor Ryan Dufrene, who had to sift through endless hours of that footage in order to create a semi-coherent feature. More than anything, Getaway reminds me of high octane car chase films of the 70s, ones that advertised "Real chases!! Real crashes!!", like Vanishing Point and the original Gone in 60 Seconds. Long story short, Getaway gets an A for effort.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder if this experiment would have been better suited for a series of short films for Youtube instead of a theatrical feature, like those BMW commercials starring Clive Owen that came out a decade ago (If you haven’t seen those, seek them out, one of them shows Madonna peeing her pants).
First of all, a lot of the footage is culled from lower resolution cameras and it looks very jarring and cheap on a giant multiplex screen. The extremely fast cutting between the different cameras doesn’t help matters as it takes a good half hour before our eyes can even adjust to the strictly digital look and style of the film. I have a feeling Getaway will be a much easier watch on the small screen, perhaps as late night entertainment on Netflix.
The premise is very simple: An ex-race car driver (Ethan Hawke) has to complete a list of incredibly dangerous tasks in a stolen car decked out with cameras, otherwise his wife will be killed. This is a Buried or Phone Booth-type single location deal. The movie rarely leaves the immediate vicinity of the car.
Of course it’s hard to write a screenplay with relatable characters around such a concept, especially when any character or plot development has to be interrupted by the obligatory chase scene every five minutes or so.
There’s very little story development work done over Hawke’s character as well as the ridiculously miscast Selena Gomez as the bratty hacker kid of the CEO of the biggest bank in Bulgaria, who gets caught up in the action because, I don’t know. I guess they really need 15-year-old asses in those seats.
As far as the mystery surrounding the reason for the kidnapping, I think I would have preferred a much simpler approach as a contrast. Instead of the convoluted and ultimately far too predictable motive, a Duel-like approach might have worked better where we don’t ever find out the Why and How and are only left with a simple What.
Getaway is slightly better and more inventive than what one might expect from the dry and mundane September line-up. As an experiment it’s impressive, but as a theatrical feature it fails.