The Getaway is the story of Doc McCoy, a criminal released on parole early thanks to the favour obtained by the warden. In exchange for the early release McCoy and his wife Carol McCoy must participate in a bank heist with other felons. Businessman Jack Benyon used his influence to get McCoy out of prison but also plans to double cross him and his wife as soon as possible. When the McCoys escape the traps set by Benyon and Rudy, his hired goon, the couple must flee from the law and criminals, while losing the loot along the way and doubting each other’s faithfulness. Will the McCoys make to Mexico alive?
This is another movie with car chases but here, unlike in Bullitt, they feel more like decorations and excuses to hear engines roar and tires skids. These moments barely add any suspense or important plot information to the story. Yet, the plot of The Getaway is stronger and easier to follow than that of Bullitt and the French Connection. As a heist gone bad movie, it feels like a higher class Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Whereas the latter were clearly white trash, the McCoys, although they are criminals are middle class in appearance. They even wear suits and business attire throughout the film.
Because it is also a chase film, the movie moves quickly and every detour adds to the tension between the McCoys. Will they get away or not? They are clearly criminals yet we root for them all the way. Perhaps that’s because of Rudy and his weird relationship with Fran Clinton, a married woman. Rudy, injured by Doc doing a double cross, seeks refuges with the Clintons. He quickly steals Fran from her husband Harold and kidnap the couple as he tries to catch up with the McCoys. These scenes are absurd.
What is less absurd, is the rotten treatment of women in this film. Sally Struthers who plays Fran is a sexual object without any remorse or moral that cheats on her husband in front of him casually. Rudy forces Harold to watch everything. Carol doesn’t fare much better. She is the submissive wife of Doc with little personality. Many film buffs will blame this state of being on the acting of Ali MacGraw. She was a beautiful women then and the object of desire of many men in real life. Co-star Steve McQueen did steal her from Paramount producer Robert Evans while the film was being shot. In essence, McQueen pulled the same stunt the ugly Rudy pulled with the Clintons in the film.
The cuts and juxtaposition of the audio in this film are incredible. Director Sam Peckinpah uses a technique where the sound that plays in one scene lingers on a few frames after the cut to another scene. Sometimes, especially in the early scenes, he freezes a shot briefly to give it a photographic quality, as if viewers were meant to remember certain moments before they pass away. What Yates did very well, was to create so much tension between all the characters, that you never know if one will double cross the other and run away with the money. I would argue that The Getaway, regardless of the performance of MacGraw, is Steve McQueen’s quintessential film.