Writer: Har Barwood, Matthew Robbins (Screenplay) Steven Spielberg, Hal Banwood, Matthew Robbins (Story)
Starring: Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, Michael Sacks, Williams Atherton, Gregory Walcott, Steve Kanaly, Louise Latham
Plot: A woman attempts to reunite her family by helping her husband escape prison and together kidnapping their son. But things don’t go as planned when they are forced to take a police hostage on the road.
Tagline – Every cop in the state was after her. Everybody else was behind her.
Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Smartly Drive Crime Thriller
Story: The Sugarland Express starts when Lou Jean (Hawn) breaks her husband Clovis (Atherton) out of early release prison, they want to travel to Sugarland to get their son back after losing custody. The plan seems simple until a police officer Slide (Sacks) pulls over their car leading to the couple taking him hostage.
It isn’t long before this turns into a state wide pursuit led by Captain Tanner (Johnson) that seems to have ever police car in the state leading to a chain of cars heading to Sugarland.
Thoughts on The Sugarland Express
Characters – Lou Jean has lost custody of her child, now she will break her husband out of prison to get him back, she is the desperate mother who even though she doesn’t have the complete resources for parenting she will give the child all the love in the world. Clovis is the husband that goes on the journey believing this will be the last resort, he will support her even if she doesn’t give him the complete story. Slide is the police officer that is taken hostage, he is helpless to follow instructions putting his fate in the hands of his Captain and captors. Captain Tanner is the man that must figure out how to bring an end to the events, he doesn’t want a shootout, he must control all the officers in search of a peaceful ending.
Performances – Goldie Hawn in the leading role as the desperate mother doing anything she can to get her child back, we see how she plays the naïve nature of her behaviour for the characters age involved which helps us support her decision. William Atherton as the boyfriend is good in his role showing moments of confusion like his character would be going through. Michael Sacks as the hostage cop he keeps calm through all the scenes which is needed for his character. Ben Johnson as the captain is a good watch because we almost see him planning each move in his head.
Story – The story here is based on a real event about a couple that take a highway patrol officer hostage as they plan to get their child back. We follow this story closes and how the police didn’t want to get involved in anything crazy as the couple are going about the situation in a peaceful manner. What we see in the story is just how far people would go to get their child back after and just how the story would take the country by storm, with the supporters coming from each town they travel through and for some reason the endless numbers of cops that will follow them. When we start looking at how this plays out, we would have a different outcome now, first it would have been a lot harder to break the husband out of prison and secondly you feel the police would be a lot more aggressive when we go across state borders. If you want a story that could easily be one that captures a nations attention this will be one.
Crime – The crime side of the film shows us how the two petty criminals will go to extraordinary lengths to get their child back even if it means breaking the law in ways that will only get them in trouble for longer.
Settings – The film takes us across the country in pursuit of a car which has taken a highway patrol officer hostage in an attempt to get their child, this is a questionable use of setting because we never really learn the scale of the distance travelled.
Final Thoughts – This is an early look at just how talented Steven Spielberg was going to be, it is a crime film that keeps you on edge and one that make you have sympathy for the criminals.
Overall: Early masterclass from Spielberg.