First thing I should say is that this review won’t be comparing the old version and the two remakes. This is because despite being well aware this is a remake, I never saw the originals. So it is all new to me. The film is about a bunch of people hijacking a train in New York and asking for a bunch of money. They make this threat with the MTA train group and give them a time limit to get the cash. The time limit is an hour and for every minute they go over the time limit, a hostage will die. A good setup for a thriller it is.
For an action thriller it has everything you would expect. There is the likeable good guy you want to win, a horrible bad guy who seems to have control and has put others in a terrible situation, there’s a time limit, deaths, the tense music which seems to be the same in all these films and some strange motive to make the villain more than just a typical villain. It’s all here but I have to say it is very well put together and perfectly paced with some slick presentation to show how much time is left before the deal has to be made and sign pointed where everything is taken place. After a cringe worthy opening with annoying music, and lots of swearing I thought I had jumped into something which was for gangster wannabes to enjoy but it quickly become so much more.
The reason I think this is a decent thriller is because of the two main characters. There are more characters of course who provide some entertainment but they are forgettable compared to the two main guys. John Travolta plays mean hijacker man Ryder and Denzel Washington plays MTA dispatcher Walter Garber, both excellent actors. The performance of the two bring the whole thing alive as the two talk through speakers to each other, making suggestions, arguing and discussing the finer points in life to find out about each other through simple questions. While they both make the film entertaining they are perhaps missing the mark of realism. Washington doesn’t seem to care at times while Travolta is a bit too over the top with his manic shouting and swearing. The hostages also aren’t very interesting, they are just there to shoot up if need be.
I think the lack of polish in the performances and some other over the top events let things down. There is a moment with police cars doing their best to get the money in on time but I find it laughable that the police would suddenly forget how to drive with events such as crashing into things clearly visible in front or being hit by oncoming traffic, it is unbelievable. I’m sure they would be professional and well-trained not to have their car go flying off a bridge, seriously. Also the teenage hostage with the live webcam chat with his girlfriend was not needed, it served no little purpose to the whole thing and was just cringeworthy. The other characters are forgettable to and the pace does falter towards the end though I do like how the developments between Garber and Ryder go, the way they interact is interesting and these interesting events is what save the film from being just another thriller. I felt the ending was satisfying enough to, but only because of some of the lines delivered by Travolta, I don’t believe the writer knew how to give it a good ending then suddenly came up with a line which make just about enough sense with the relationship Garber and Ryder make to give a feeling.
Though despite my enjoyment I don’t think I’d want to watch it again. It doesn’t stand out as anything incredible but due to the huge amount of children films and little in the way of something for the older audience over this summer, at my cinema at least, it is worth a watch. I don’t really want to say much about the story other than what I have mentioned; it’s one of those films you should go in with little knowledge, that’s what makes even the most average thriller enjoyable. If you’ve seen the two Pelham films from before though I don’t know what you’d think of this, don’t blame me if it isn’t as good. But I will stand by my statement that for what little I knew of it before watching and the fact that the source material is certainly decent, this is a thriller worth giving a go. Just wish it had less swearing which totally brings the tone down.
Board the train if you have nowhere else to go. It might take you somewhere interesting.