Finding Steve McQueen
There’s a pleasing moment in heist film Finding Steve McQueen when a bank robber (William Fichtner) lambasts Richard Nixon: “Guys like him always come out on top.” The week of the film’s UK release would prove otherwise, with Trump’s attempts to steal an election far less successful than the crew who stole Nixon’s illegal slush fund millions in 1972.
This fictionalised account changes the characters’ names and adds a charming romantic element, as getaway driver Harry (Travis Fimmel) recounts the heist to his girlfriend Molly (Rachael Taylor) at a diner in 1980. Harry lives above a dilapidated cinema (or as they’re known during lockdown, a cinema) which enables references to Molly’s favourite movie Bonnie and Clyde, and Harry’s hero Steve McQueen. Its sense of sunkissed Hollywood homage grants the film licence for fantasy and romance, endearing the criminals to us by emphasising that they’re only stealing from a crooked president – even though Harry just wants to drive fast like his hero.
The surprisingly winning result is a movie with no heroes or villains (except for Nixon), only characters and relationships; even the federal agents looking for Harry are a likeable odd couple (Forest Whitaker and Lily Rabe), under the orders of FBI deputy director W Mark Felt (who was later named as the Watergate informant known as Deep Throat). That the people stealing from Nixon are being chased by the man helping to bring him down adds irony and pathos to the story of a random guy caught in the middle of something much bigger than he is, his daydreams catching up with him like True Romance without the violence.
Finding Steve McQueen is the very definition of a breezy caper, its nostalgic tone and jukebox (sometimes literally) soundtrack capturing the 1970s in cool, laid-back style. The movie doesn’t need urgency or fireworks, because the warmth of the characters and performances makes the stakes apparent and produces a lovely escapist romp. That might not be an appropriate approach to what was then the largest bank heist in US history, but if this week’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping fiasco has taught us anything it’s that there’s sometimes no discernible difference between dreams and reality.
Finding Steve McQueen is released nationwide on 16th November 2020.
Watch the trailer for Finding Steve McQueen here: