The Taking Of Pelham 123


Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by:Brian Helgeland, John Godey
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzman, John Turturro, James Gandolfini, Victor Cojcaj
Released: August 27, 2009
Grade: C+

This is the second time that John Godey’s novel has been brought to the screen.  Older filmgoers might remember the adaptation of The Taking Of Pelham 123 which was released in 1974.  It starred Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw and Hector Elizondo.

This new version has been updated to take advantage of today’s technology but it’s basically the same story.  A man who identifies himself as Ryder (Travolta) has stopped a New York City subway train and taken 19 passengers as hostages.  He demands $10m in cash within an hour or else he will start killing the hostages one by one.

The man at the other end of the phone line is Walter Garber (Washington), an employee of the New York City Transit Authority.  The police try to bring in their special negotiators but Ryder only wants to speak with Garber.  He realises Garber is just an ordinary guy – someone more reliable and trustworthy than the authorities.

With the premise for the film established, the audience will now ask themselves the big question.  How will the bad guys escape from the subway tunnel when the police have it surrounded, especially if they’re carrying $10m in cash?   Of course I can’t answer that in my review (I’d be giving everything away) but let me say I was unconvinced by the ending and some of the plot “twists” – which were visible from a mile away.  The audience was laughing, when they weren’t supposed to, at several scenes during the preview screening I attended.

Helping boost the film is the star-power of Denzel Washington and John Travolta.  They are two of the most likeable actors in the business and both appear to have fun in their respective roles.  Their charm is infectious and I think a key reason why people will pay to see this film is because of these two gentlemen.

We all have different tastes but I’m not a huge fan of director Tony Scott.  He’s an entertainer more than a storyteller.  His movies can be fun to watch on the big screen but there’s not a lot of realism or substance behind them.  That won’t bother some people but it bothers me.  He is most famous for Top Gun but Scott’s recent credits include the underwhelming Déjà Vu, Domino, Man On Fire and Spy Game.  It’s been a while since he knocked one out of the ballpark.