Friday, July 3, 2009

Film Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

The Taking of Pelham 123
Directed by Tony Scott
Released June 12, 2009

Sometimes it’s clear from a film’s opening credits that a movie’s got style. Regardless of the story or plot, the movie has a certain distinctive way of carrying itself and presenting its characters that will define it. The credits roll out over shots of the subway flying furiously underground and suspicious-looking hijackers preparing for their day. The movie operates like the MTA trains do, on a schedule with routine checks and periodic delays. Recently demoted MTA officer Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) notices that a 6 train has stopped moving on its track, and begins trying to contact it. When it’s clear that things have gone awry and hijackers are holding the train passengers hostage, Garber moves on to the next logical step and opens a dialogue with the lead hijacker, Ryder (John Travolta). The movie is fairly formulaic in that sense, adhering to a strict script of hostage thrillers where the primary villain gets attached to someone who’s not the hostage negotiator. It’s fairly obvious how the film will turn out, and it doesn’t have any surprises hiding around any corners. It’s sleek in its execution, occasionally freezing the frame to provide a time-stamp update. Protagonist Garber isn’t quite a saint, but Washington makes him likeable enough. Washington plays a good nice guy, and it’s easy to root for him as the hero. Travolta does crazy well, and his wacky facial hair perfectly embodies his hot-tempered character. Hearing the two of them square off is fun, and that’s about all there is to this mediocre film. It’s attention-grabbing and engrossing, but after all is said and done, not much has actually happened and the film hasn’t really gone anywhere.


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