Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) are an adventurous young couple celebrating their honeymoon by backpacking to one of the most beautiful and remote beaches in Hawaii. Hiking the wild, secluded trails, they believe they've found paradise. But when the pair comes across a group of frightened hikers discussing the horrifying murder of another newlywed couple on the islands, they begin to question whether they should turn back.
Unsure whether to stay or flee, Cliff and Cydney join up with two other couples—Nick (Timothy Olyphant) & Gina (Kiele Sanchez) and Kale (Chris Hemsworth) & Cleo (Marley Shelton)—and things begin to go terrifyingly wrong. Far from civilization or rescue, everyone begins to look like a threat and nobody knows whom to trust. Paradise becomes hell on earth as a brutal battle for survival begins.
David Twohy is an ace genre filmmaker who consistently flies under the radar. He got his start selling high-profile screenplays, working his way up from B-movie fare like 'Warlock' and 'Critters 2' to the kind of high-concept, intelligent projects that Hollywood ate up (for millions and millions of dollars), stuff like 'The Fugitive,' the Charlie Sheen vehicle 'Terminal Velocity,' 'G.I. Jane,' and 'Waterworld.' And somewhere in there he started to occasionally direct his own scripts, and it turned out he was just as proficient a director as he was a writer. Anyone who has seen 'The Arrival,' 'Pitch Black,' or 'Below,' all three of them whip-smart genre entertainments, can attest to his prowess as a guy who can make down-and-dirty, edge-of-your-seat entertainment. (His one lousy movie, 'The Chronicles of Riddick,' felt too big for him - with too much studio interference. Twohy is most effective when he flies under the radar.)
Every film of his feels like a mini-event (at least to those of us with discerning genre taste), which is why it was such a shame that his newest film, the nifty tropical whodunit 'A Perfect Getaway,' was delayed by a couple of years and a production company that shifted homes. When it was released at the tail end of this past summer, amongst surprising heavyweights in the form of 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'District 9,' it got lost amidst the shuffle. Even with a modicum of critical backing, 'Perfect Getaway' was more or less forgotten about.
The story of 'A Perfect Getaway' is straightforward: we follow screenwriter Cliff (Steve Zahn) and his new bride Cydney (Milla Jovovich) as they start their honeymoon in Hawaii. Soon we learn that there has been a gruesome murder of a couple on one of the other islands. Cliff and Cydney then run into another couple, the bad-ass military dude Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and his smoking hot girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Could Nick and Gina be the killers? Or is it yet another couple they run into on their trip, the tattooed Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton)? It's your classic whodunit, except transported to a jaw-dropping tropical location.
There's also some neat deconstruction of the genre. Since Cliff is a screenwriter, as the movie goes along, he basically talks about the movie (and the genre as a whole), delving into red herrings, second act twists, and the like. It's weird and interesting for a movie to deconstruct itself as it goes along, and it's one of the more charming aspects of 'A Perfect Getaway' (and why it felt like such a bummer that it was so ignored). Also, it's got one of the more batshit-insane third acts I've seen in a thriller in a good long while. I won't ruin anything for you, but just strap yourself in. The movie, which does a fair amount of deliberately paced building, just explodes and turns into a blood-spattered in-your-face thrill-a-thon, and you'll love every minute of it.
It helps that the cast is so uniformly strong. This wouldn't be considered an A-list castroster by any stretch of the imagination, but everyone turns in really strong, subtle work, from Steve Zahn (redefining 'tightly wound') to Timothy Olyphant (who seems to be eating up his role). Then there's Kiele Sanchez, who is beyond adorable as the foxy Gina. Considering she just came off of her doomed role as Nikki on 'Lost,' she had a lot to prove, and totally brings it.
But this is Twohy's show, and he really does a superb job. While some have complained about the slowness of the movie's first two acts, it's necessary, both in establishing the characters and in setting up the whiz-bang finale, which is some of the finest, most white-knuckle stuff he's ever directed. It's his sure hand that guides us through the ins and outs of 'A Perfect Getaway,' and with its introspective undercurrents, through the thriller genre itself. I can think of few more capable on a genre walkabout than Twohy himself.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The disc plays automatically. The menu is preceded by a commercial for, of all things, the Olympic games (go NBC-Universal synergy!) You can then choose which version of 'A Perfect Getaway' to select - the theatrical cut or the director's cut, which is a full 10 minutes longer. Rather than a seamless branching option, Universal has opted to include two separate, full-bodied VC-1 encodes on the 50GB disc. (I'll go into the differences in the cuts in a minute.) The disc is BD-Live and D-Box ready, so if you like minor, Internet-based special features or have a chair that jumps around when you watch movies, you're in luck. The disc is Region A locked.
This VC-1 encoded, 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 2.35:1) is gorgeous. It's not exactly reference-quality, but it is undeniably outstanding.
There's a shot towards the end of the movie, where the camera passes by jungle-y, jagged mountains, and my jaw literally dropped. It was almost like watching 'Avatar,' with its 3-D rain forest terrains. There are a handful of moments when you are genuinely awed by the transfer. Elsewhere, things are just solid.
Detail and texture are sharp and refined, blacks are deep and inky as a starless night sky, colors (both the bright green of the jungle and the bright red of the spurting blood) truly pop, and there is nothing in terms of artificial tampering or buggy technical glitches. There is a prolonged flashback sequence in the third act that features some pretty heavy digital processing, but the somewhat jarring visual scheme is intended. (When it switches back to the main thrust of the story, you can tell the difference.) There's also a fine, but none-too-distracting layer of grain that occasionally makes its presence known.
The main downside of this disc is that there aren't enough of those jaw-dropping moments. For a movie set in a lush island paradise, the whole movie should have rocked my socks off. While detail is often outstanding, sometimes the greens of the jungle blur together, without clear enough definition. Overall, it's a great transfer but is just shy of a perfect one.
What's even more disappointing than the video, though, is the disc's rather flat DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
To explain: a whole lot of craziness goes on in 'A Perfect Getaway,' especially towards the end. Even the slower parts of the movie feature our lead character trudging through a jungle setting that offers plenty of atmospheric resistance (giant leaves etc). There's always something going on, in other words. Which makes it even more baffling as to why this is essentially a stereo track, with the front two channels getting the majority of the workout and the rear channels only getting used occasionally.
In terms of atmosphere, this thing is dead on arrival. What could have been an inclusive auditory landscape feels more like the audio equivalent to a pop-up book. Things occasionally spring to life, but there wasn't nearly enough ambience for my liking, and intermittent excellence isn't enough to save the track as a whole. And I don’t think it's the fault of the original mix, because I saw this in theaters and the sound kicked ass.
Also available on the disc are French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks and subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
The main 'extra' on this disc is the inclusion of the Director's Cut, although, again, I feel reluctant calling it a Director's Cut when Mr. Twohy is nowhere to be found on the disc. Anyway, it's a good ten minutes longer than the theatrical cut, and most of this is in additional backstory during the prolonged flashback sequence in the film's nutzo third act. I actually really liked the additional content, and felt that it evened out the overall pace of the movie, giving the third act the same kind of measured quality that the first two shared. The only downside is that, baffling, in a key moment towards the end of the film, a great hands in the air moment is rendered moot - when a bad guy gets kicked in the face, what had originally been blood has been digitally replaced with see-through spit. Why, lord, why?
I had a great time with 'A Perfect Getaway' when I saw it in the theaters, and was hoping that the Blu-ray release would lend this nifty little genre film some credit. Unfortunately, weak audio and virtually nonexistent extras aren't going to help to turn anybody on to this tropical whodunit. The director's cut is more of a curiosity for fans than a go-to version (as much as I appreciated it), and I'm giving this a recomended stamp for the movie itself rather than this disc's disappointing package. It is far from perfect.