Screened at 2023 Sundance Film Festival: The Accidental Getaway Driver Creates a Stunning Car Ride

by Jordan Costolo ‘25

The Accidental Getaway Driver screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival

Based on a true story, The Accidental Getaway Driver, directed by Sing J. Lee is a fast-paced thriller, with portions of slow-burn character drama throughout the film. The story revolves around an old vietnamese cab driver Long Ma (Hiep Tran Nghia) who is kidnapped by three escaped convicts who want him to take them out of California, and eventually out of the country. The film most shines in the melancholic dialogue between the driver and convicts. 

Long Ma is mostly developed driving from motel to motel, where the movie shifts from thriller to drama. He is expertly fleshed out and portrayed, accurately showing the distress and pain this old man feels over different intense parts of the movie. Although Long Ma is well developed, the convicts, Tay (Dustin Nguyen), Aden (Dali Benssalah), and Eddie (Phi Vu) don’t feel fleshed out enough for parts of the plot to make sense. The three escapees go underdeveloped, having motivations from a past that viewers don’t see very much of. Because of this, some of their actions seem out of nowhere and unreasonable with what information had been given up to that point. 

While these aspects of the movie leave a lot to be desired, the best aspects of the movie are the visuals which, from lighting to camera work, are all expertly done. The aura of danger and uncertainty is perfectly illustrated with darkly lit scenes, light only coming from neon signs, headlights, or streetlights. The heavy use of close ups on characters’ faces give the viewer a better look at the acting, showing the complex emotion of the convicts and driver. Another highlight of The Accidental Getaway Driver is that most of it is subtitled. The driver speaks in Vietnamese throughout the movie (with the viewer following along with subtitles). This adds a lot to the suspense of the movie and helps build empathy for the driver, an old immigrant that doesn’t even understand what his captors are saying most of the time. The Accidental Getaway Driver focuses on camera work and lighting, with the plot being shallow at times, but ultimately being a fulfilling narrative navigating multiple genres.