Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is a New York City subway dispatcher whose ordinary day is thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train. Ryder (John Travolta), the criminal mastermind behind t... more »he hijacking and leader of a highly-armed gang of four, threatens to execute the train's passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages. But there's one riddle Garber can't solve: even if the thieves get the money, how can they possibly escape?« less
"Though Scott's uniquely frenetic editing has been toned down from his previous films, his unmistakable style still frequents the action and accentuates the tension-filled premise. Denzel Washington's quick-witted and moderately corrupt dispatcher plays off of John Travolta's Wall Street savvy sociopath with plenty of clever exchanges, and the dark humor and suspense that find its way into the bloodshed culminates in an engaging game of cat and mouse. Not quite as slick as the original, and perhaps a little too conspicuous in its efforts at exuding cool, this latest take on the subway heist story still accomplishes entertainment at break-neck speed.
When a New York City subway train is hijacked, Rail Control Center dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) becomes an unwitting negotiator for the ruthless criminals aboard. Led by the uncontainable Ryder (John Travolta), the hijackers demand ten million dollars in exchange for the seventeen hostages and offer only one hour to deliver the ransom. As minutes quickly count down, Garber must utilize his cunning and resourcefulness to buy time and catch the mercenary off guard as the situation goes from bad to catastrophic.
The unusual, highly stylized, frenzied editing is assuredly a now permanent technique for Tony Scott films - it's a signature method that he ceaselessly experiments with, frequently going overboard, and only occasionally able to harness. In Pelham it looks familiar but doesn't detract from the story, even if some moments of suspense are dulled by the blurred colors of slow-motion and missing frames. The remaining stunt sequences are exciting and tense, but hardly necessary. The car chases are never about catching someone, but rather beating the clock. It's action for action's sake, and while enjoyably destructive, it's entirely apparent.
Most audiences will not know that The Taking of Pelham 123 is based on a John Godey novel, or that it's been adapted into a movie twice before with the same name. While Scott's version stands on its own as a big-budget action movie, the purpose of specifically remaking this story is puzzling. Shouldn't the reasoning behind the revisiting of a popular plot be to improve upon some outstanding aspect? The use of the internet, cell phones, snipers, bloodshed, crude language and more give this new vision a sparklingly modernized feel, but when the movie draws to a close, it just can't compete with the 1974 version. Washington and Travolta have an intriguing chemistry, but even that can't outdo the cat-and-mouse mindgames between Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, who played their counterparts in the first feature adaptation. Perhaps a title change could have appropriately distanced Scott's take from being endlessly compared to an infinitely superior film.
- The Massie Twins"
If I can make it there...
Michael J. Tresca | Fairfield, CT USA | 06/21/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a big fan of the original version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. It was a snapshot in time of New York City in the seventies; a cynical, bloated, bureaucratic mess that was entirely unprepared for a terrorist attack. In fact, there were actually concerns that the movie would inspire real terrorists to take a subway train hostage. The original featured everything from undercover cops to hippies, a crisp military professional turned terrorist to the random accidents of people in stressful situations. It even invented the "color codenames" later used in Reservoir Dogs.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is catnip to movie directors in the same way that single stage sets are to theatrical directors - be it a subway or a stage with just two chairs, this is a film about two men facing off in a battle of wits. The majority of the movie takes place over an intercom between a terrorist and a dispatcher, with occasional cuts to the havoc their conversation causes throughout New York City. And if the terrorist represents the international Other that is a threat to our national security, the dispatcher represents the everyman of New York, our hardworking servicemen and women who lost their lives on September 11. With material like that, it's no wonder the film has been remade twice.
Director Tony Scott updates the film to modern day sensibilities. The villain, Ryder (John Travolta in full crazy mode), isn't a mercenary applying crisp military precision to the art of extortion; he's a (SPOILER ALERT) former Wall Street tycoon - slightly lower on the villain totem pole than industrialists who pollute the environment. The undercover cop moves into action immediately rather than later in the film, because of course New York's finest would respond quickly to a terrorist attack. And the dispatcher, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington, looking appropriately puffy and slouched) has a more complicated past and a bigger role.
Unfortunately, the film suffers as a result. In the original, military precision was entirely the point. The trains never ran on time, so challenging New York to meet a deadline was both a delicious irony and a sticking point with a former military officer who expects nothing less than perfection from his men and from the negotiators. Here, that point is muddled by a sort of "we're all into this together" blue collar ethic that Ryder projects into Garber. Their dialogue still crackles, but this simple change dilutes the force of the film.
The four-man team of bad guys is reduced to two speaking parts, with the other two generic thugs. The emphasis is clearly on Travolta and Washington, and it's refreshing to have a movie that's not afraid to spend some time letting actors just act. There's a lot of talking in this film and that's not a bad thing.
The movie struggles with the modern updates. A live wireless webcam feed gets broadcast to the Internet without government interference (yeah, right). Even though the laptop's battery dies, it's mysteriously back on a moment later. And the two teens on either side of the webcam come off as self-absorbed morons.
Because this is a big budget action film, the quiet subtlety of the original version is glossed over in favor of an MTA agent handling a hostage negotiation, wielding a gun, and ultimately engaging in a showdown with the bad guy. Since Ryder has no principles to speak of, the conclusion is particularly unsatisfying.
Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a serviceable action film but not a particularly good update of the original. The seventies version was more of a drama with an ensemble cast that was comfortable playing second fiddle to the biggest character of all: New York City."
What a great Blu - worth your time
Steve Kuehl | Ben Lomond, CA | 11/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed watching this suspense/action film from one of my favorite directors - but when it was all done I actually liked the Blu better as a whole than the movie itself. It seems as though lovers and haters here already know the story of a hijacked subway train in NY, but either way I think everyone should give this BD a chance.
The picture clarity was outstanding throughout and very little drag gets noticed even with all of the dark sequences in the tunnels. The DTS rocks consistently and I am glad they went this way for being a train film, but Tony Scott is a big DTS guy anyway so I expected not to be disappointed. The special features are what make this package and include:
* 30 minute making-of that covers all aspects of production sans the additional documentaries. Plenty of background regarding Tony's vision - filled with plenty of unbleeped expletives from cast and crew alike (always prefer things to be uncensored). Love the story about the Albanian cousins who ended up being in the film, one right out of prison to fill his needed authenticity. * 15 minute "Third Rail". Awesome informative piece about the aspects of working underground in the MTA property. Really good material about what it took for this film to be made like no other before it (usage and cooperation with NYC and the MTA). * 6 minute Stylizing. Interesting plug for the hair styling crew behind this film (Lab Salon). * 7 minute marketing Pelham. Like a long music video/trailer - would loved to have seen one with Man on Fire. * Descriptive audio track in English - I loved this. Had not heard one before and it actually had customers mesmerized with how accurate and fast this narrator was regarding everything happening on screen - recommend giving it a try. *CineChat and MovieIQ - your BD player has to be tuned up for handling these guys. The MovieIQ is more fun if you are into the trivia thing and have time.
Overall - a fun film on a solid BD. Enjoy."
Don't Take It
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 09/05/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Without the presence of the star Denzel Washington, Tony Scott's crime thriller "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" would have been a terrible disaster. Actually, the film is already a disaster in a sense, with its impossible story, numerous plot holes, gratuitous violence, showy camera works and John Travolta's hammy, almost campy acting, but the star power of Denzel Washington makes this potboiler barely watchable.
Armed men led by John Travolta's "Ryder" hijack a New York subway train and demand the Mayor (James Gandolfini) pay them 10 million dollars in cash within an hour. The man at a subway dispatch desk happens to be recently demoted Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who is of course no hostage negotiator. The film's premise is interesting. Everything starts off good, and then it goes terribly wrong.
For flashy visuals and busy camera works (frenetic editing, 360-degree circling, etc.) keep annoying us, never letting us enjoy the actions. The busy camera follows the actions using subtitles and maps, but what we get is only dizziness. Some of the talented actors like John Turturro are sadly underused (and where is Luis Guzmán?), and most of all, as the story goes on (script by Brian Helgeland), the heist and hostage situation itself, which should be tense, start to look even silly. In the film's impossible climax the ordinary subway dispatcher has to act like John McClain.
I still remember the original 1974 film (based on John Godey's novel) "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. It is an effective thriller with a good story and a very clever ending. (You may forget the weak 1998 made-for-TV production) Joseph Sargent may not be the greatest film director, but he surely knows how to make a good use of the tight story and some nice ideas of the film that would later become the obvious inspiration of such films as "Die Hard" and "Reservoir Dogs."
It looks as if Tony Scott's latest version is trying to betray the expectations of those who have seen the 1974 version. One character sneezes, but he meets a different fate. Japan is mentioned, but in a totally different context. All these changes are amusing at first, but ultimately add up to nothing.
For all the dizzying visuals and loud noises, Tony Scott's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" is an underwhelming experience."
Read the book instead unless you are a fan of Washington or
R. Kyle | USA | 06/13/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I initially read John Godey's novel back when it came out in the 1970's. This book got me interested in the thriller-suspense genre and in many ways is one of my comparisons for most thrillers I read now.
Of course, I followed up with the initial film adaptation starring Walter Matthau a few years later. This film was taut, suspenseful and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
Yes, I came to the theatre with preconceived notions and for the most part, director Scott and the cast lived up to them. This version of "Pelham" is darker, dirtier, and more up to date than the last. The story's entered into the age of cellular phones and Internet.
Story in brief: Walter Garber (Washington) is a NYC transit authority official under suspicion of a bribery charge who's been demoted to serving as a railway dispatcher while his court case is adjudicated. He just happens to be on duty when the Pelham 123 train is taken by Ryder (John Travolta). Ryder's got 17 hostages and if the city doesn't pay him 10M in an hour, he's going to start killing people for every minute they're late.
Garber's actually the perfect man to conduct the negotiations. He's worked his way up the ranks of the subway system and he knows those tunnels like the back of his hand. And yes, he understands the darker side of human nature and he's not the kind of man to fall under pressure.
Ryder's a mystery at first, but as Garber questions him, he reveals facets of his nature that both intrigue and repel us. Ryder's motivation is a devious plan within a plan that unfolds as news broadcasts update us on what's going on in the city as the hostage situation comes to a head.
The plot moves forward at almost breakneck speed. Violence and police chases are very real--almost too real in places. An interesting side note is the addition of the Internet in this scenario. One of the passengers was engaged in an online chat with his girlfriend when the train was taken and the events inside the rail car are broadcast over the world wide web.
Warning: If you have issues with fast, blurring pans that denote speed, don't go see this film. If blurring of the film gives you either a headache or makes you dizzy, this film's got a lot of cinematography from that school of thought.