It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway" is a big, glossy, impersonal mechanical toy. It's like one of those devices for executive desks, with the stainless steel balls on the strings: It functions with great efficiency but doesn't accomplish anything. Click. Click. Click. The movie is pretty to look at, though, and there's a quiet little chase scene on a train that is a masterpiece of its kind.
The story is as contrived as everything else about the movie (you keep wondering what set this plot into motion). Steve McQueen plays a convict whose wife (Ali MacGraw) makes a big Texas politician an offer he can't refuse. If he springs McQueen, McQueen will give him half the haul from a bank job he's got set up. Ali throws in a bonus: herself.
The bank job goes off more or less as planned. That's a wonder, because McQueen and his associates (who are supposed to be professionals) seem to have learned about bank robbery by watching old heist movies. All you really have to do to rob a small-town bank is to stick it up and make a quick getaway, right? Not according to McQueen. He prepares a classic late-movie plan including "diversionary explosions," split-second timing, severed electrical cables, and even a map of the local sewer system. Incredible. They might not even break even on this job.
We've seen the whole routine in a dozen other movies, and we know you can't rob a bank until you've collected several hundred telephoto photographs of its exterior. So McQueen and MacGraw rent a hotel room across the street and (in full view of anyone who might be looking) take the required photographs. McQueen says things like "The guard is entering the bank at 8:59 a.m., one minute early," and MacGraw records this information on her clipboard. So what? Tomorrow the guard might come at 9:01 a.m. -- one minute late.