Review of 'The Sugarland Express'

sugarland_express.jpg Unbelievably based on a real story, young mother Lou Jean (Goldie Hawn) breaks her husband Clovis Poplin (William Atherton) from jail despite having only a short time of his one-year prison sentence remaining. She is determined to have her husband help in kidnapping their child Baby Langston who has recently been put into foster care. The two hitch a lift with an older couple who are stopped by the police when driving excessively slowly. Lou Jean panics and steals the car eventually crashing after being pursued by patrolman Maxwell Slide (Michael Sacks). The couple force Slide at gunpoint to drive them to Sugarland to retrieve their son. As they make their way to their baby they are followed…at a respectful distance…by numerous police cars and the chief of police. Their plight catches the imagination and hearts of the public who demonstrate their support for the fugitives…but there is only one way this story was ever going to end.

A rather quirky early film from Steven Spielberg that is both humorous and darkly foreboding at the same time as the deluded and frenetic Lou Jean puts aside all logic in her attempt to get back her son. Goldie Hawn is delightfully demented in her single-minded determination while William Atherton as her rather compliant, blank husband and shell-shocked Michael Sacks as the policeman are just along for the ride despite the predictable ending. The long line of police cars slowly following the three never daring to attempt to stop them are bizarre in the extreme. As might be expected, there are lots of car crashes but this is really all about the fantasy of the rather (as you may expected) simple-minded Lou Jean.

Despite some more traditionally cinematography there are flashes of brilliance from the future director of Jaws, ET, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park such as the way he draws us into the police car as the three are pursued across the country and the dramatic way he follows the cars at a distance during a chase to give the viewer the ability to take it all in. Here though we also see very much the human touch of Spielberg and he tells the story with great compassion and humanity – a skill which would be used to great affect in ET.

An interesting, amusing and odd film that manages to keep the viewer engaged throughout despite knowing how it must end.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2022-02-13

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Universal Pictures

Year: 1974

Length: 110 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Steven Spielberg: