New York City is about to be taken for a ride. It's just an ordinary day for subway dispatcher Walter Garber until a vicious gang of criminals led by the mysterious Ryder hijacks one of the city's train cars. The ransom ten million dollars. The deadline one hour. Now Walter is thrust into a race against time to save the lives of all the innocent hostages on board...and stop Ryder from getting away.
With the exception of the opening credits, the rest of this Tony Scott’s thriller boasts nothing of his usual headache-inducing MTV editing style, snazzy quick cuts and saturated film colours which is a good thing really.
This re-imagining (the in-thing right now in Hollywood) of a 1974 thriller of the same movie has Denzel Washington as a New York City subway dispatcher, Walter Garber who unwittingly has to deal with a gang of robbers over the radio system. The leader of the gang is a mysterious man named Ryder (John Travolta) who demanded the city hand over a ransom of US$10 million before he threaten to kill all the onboard train passengers. Instead of the police’s negotiator, Camonetti (John Turturro), the man he picked to negotiate turns out to be none other than Garber.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 surprisingly is a tense affair consider there’s very little opportunities for the showy Tony Scott to showcase his slick visual set pieces. For most of the running time, we are treated to the constant back-and-forth verbal exchange between Garber and Ryder in the claustrophobically clamped subway car or the control station. Nothing really exciting to say the least but however this is salvage by Brian Helgeland’s brilliant script and ingenious dialogue. The Academy Award winner is at his best churning out stuff like "You know we all owe God a debt... and I'm a man who pays his debts. Are you a man who pays his debts?" (Ryder) in which Garber replies "Yeah, yeah, sure... TV, cable, uh and my mortgage". This is of course the good Helgeland (Mystic River, Man On Fire) at work rather than the other who gave us The Postman!
The other commendable fact belongs to John Travolta who glees and shines in his manicured-like goatee and slap-on tattoos. The man has its fair share of villainous roles, remember Broken Arrow and Swordfish? At least in Pelham, he sheds that layer of cheese and turns in quite a tour de force opposite Washington. The latter as a down-to-earth subway dispatcher who is suspected of taking bribes is at usual at the top of his game despite a pretty convenient third act which has the bland blue-collar worker turns hero.
Like I mentioned, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 weakens in the final act. Perhaps it’s the scriptwriter attempt to please Sony executives by allowing the two protagonists aka superstars to have a final showdown consider they never get to meet each other throughout. Perhaps it’s Scott who wanted to showcase a few gravity defining car toss and turns to satisfy the audience’s visceral senses or perhaps we need a breather from all the dark railway corners thus the rich cinematography of New York City seems to be the best way to compensate for it.
In a special-effects filled summer blockbusters slate, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is an old-school hostage drama that relies heavily on the chemistry of its actors and some of the veterans steering the gears behind. Minus the gimmicky visual effects, I got to admit it may not be the best cup of tea for the younger, impatient audience, to me it’s an excellent change of scenery at least.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
No Time To Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3 – A routine featurette that includes interviews with the cast and crew mainly on how the movie came about.
The Third Rail: New York Underground – You know what is the third rail? The railway is a dangerous place to be and the third rail is definitely something you wouldn’t want to mess with. This segment has cast and crew members talking about using the everyday transportation system and the difficulties faced by the Pelham crew while filming in the New York subway.
Commentary with Director Tony Scott – Scott does not possess the most interesting voice sometimes scratchy and hoarse. But if you are keen on the movie’s behind-the-scenes interesting bits and pieces then this track is a must-listen. Aside from his scratchy voice, Scott can be a tad dry at times but hold on there. Once a while, he offers something funny like a rat incident for example.
Commentary with Writer Brian Helgeland and Producer Todd Black – Helgeland and Black in real-life are good friends and you can feel their chemistry on this track. Compared to Scott’s track, these two buddies delve deeper into the story concept, how Washington came to accept the part and comparisons between the new and original.
Marketing Pelham – A fancy term for (drum-roll)… The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 trailers
Cinechat & MovieIQ (Blu-Ray exclusive feature) – You can try out the Cinechat feature which allows you to send on-screen instant messages to friends around the world while watching the movie. For MovieIQ, you can access real-time information about the movie via BD-Live although it remains to be seen if this feature will catch on in future.
The disc is round up with Trailers for Terminator Salvation and 2012.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 arrives in gorgeous blu-ray. Black levels for the most part are solid. When the movie reaches its final act, the details and shots of New York City are amazingly presented onscreen.
The blu-ray disc comes with a strong DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue which constitutes the whole chunk of the movie is wonderfully portrayed. Due to the nature of the movie, the sub only gets a good workout towards the end with loud car crashes and gunfire. On the whole, this is another top notch blu-ray transfer from Sony.
by Linus Tee
Posted on 26 October 2009