The Sugarland Express

The Sugarland Express ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Goldie HawnBen JohnsonMichael Sacks 

This has always been a half forgotten one in Spielberg’s filmography. It is actually his first real feature film for the big screen (in fact, really big screen: he shoot it all in wide anamorphic), and it’s also the first collaboration with John Williams (thought this is still quite an un-williams soundtrack, with Spielberg himself playing the harmonica).

I had seen it before and while I remembered the main plot (based on bit of a “Bonny and Clyde” on the road true story: a wife convinces his soon to be released husband to escape prison so that they can kidnap their own son, who is with foster parents. In their escape they take a policeman hostage). I remembered the long lines of police cars and obviously the unforgettable ending, but I didn’t quite remember how funny it was too. The wonderfully devilish Goldie Hawn is hilarious (and infuriating at the same time), and beyond from the insanity of the story itself to ,what really works here is the relationship between the couple and the “kidnapped policeman”.

Despite the tragedy beneath the surface of the main story, Spielberg has a lot of fun with some of the most outlandish details but at the same time he manages to flesh out a certain sweetness from the characters, well beyond the simple lines of dialogue. It’s all in the looks, in the gestures in the silences. That’s when Spielberg excels in his direction. The film is not as flashy and beautifully choreographed as many of his later films (or in fact even his earlier Duel for that matter) but here and there you’ll still find some wonderful Spielbergian flourishes, some beautiful edits, if you know what to look out for: the long takes, the quick edits as the car flash by, the big close-ups, the beautiful compositions… and so on.

The film has that sort slightly slower pace so in tune with the 70s (especially in its first half), which is probably why today it is not revisited as much, but I really liked it and was glued to the screen till the very end.

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