The Taking Of Pelham 123 Review: Tube’s Company

July 28, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123: On general release from Friday 31st July 2009

It is the tube commuter’s worst fear.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, apologies for the delay. John Travolta has seized control of this train carriage and has requested the sum of $10M in cash in exchange for your lives. We hope to be on the move again shortly”.

Brilliant. Not only are you going to be late for your 2 o’clock meeting, but you might not even make it alive. This hijacker is going to kill a passenger for every minute he doesn’t receive his money past the hour deadline. Nightmare.

It is up to train dispatcher Walter Garber – played by a newly rotund Denzel Washington – to negotiate with Travolta’s Ryder in an effort to spare the lives of the innocent commuters.

But even if Ryder gets the money, how will he and his motley crew possibly escape the long arm of the law?

Tony Scott directs this remake of the 1974 cult classic for the Twitter generation. First of all, don’t even try comparing it to the original. The irreverent charm of the original is hardly ever going to be topped, and anyway this version certainly has its merits.

The wonder of technology has made it a whole different animal. There are sexy Google Earth shots of Manhattan and a 24-style countdown to the deadline (bound to get a few geeks off). The movie’s engagement with technology has makes it seat-moisteningly slick, while the story’s engagement with technology, in a thoroughly modern way, goes as far to develop the plot.

However the plot twists thrown in do feel a little contrived, obviously there to thicken an otherwise dilute storyline. As a result it can be predictable, but this at times can work to its favour. It echoes that irreverent charm and gets the audience on its side.

Where the movie lacks, is its apathetic treatment of the hostages, and a possible source of tension is neglected on this high-octane journey. It seems the film’s concern with artifice overrides its plausibility.

John Travolta as the criminal mastermind isn’t entirely convincing either. With that hairdo, the leathers, the shades and his little beanie, he does look a bit like someone’s Dad in the grips of a mid-life crisis.

By no means however is The Taking of Pelham 123 a wasted couple of hours if you can resist comparing it to the original. It’s nice to look at, funny at times and it’s just enough removed from reality so as to not put you off getting the tube home. Jolly good fun.

Leonie Mercedes

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