November 11, 2009
Review - " The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Filming in the Subway - The story is as realistic as it gets. “In the past, we’ve allowed filming on a platform or inside a train,
but very little filming with actors down on the tracks. Pelham shot scenes with the actors on the track as trains moved past
them. That was unique,” says Superintendent Rapid Transit Operations Joe Grodzinsky.
When the NYPD hostage negotiation team arrives, Garber is taken off his desk and sent home. His communication with
Ryder is over, or so he thinks. Ryder demands that Garber return to be the only one to communicate with him. Garber gets
a quick course in hostage negotiations as he tries to keep Ryder’s mind off of the deadline.
This film has been rated "R" due to the violence and pervasive language, but the character of Ryder wouldn’t be the same
without the violence and language. His tough, ex-con personna is what drives the story. He has nothing to lose by killing the
passengers. What he has to gain if everything goes according to his plan, is a lot more than the ten million dollars he
Ryder is smart and knows how to play the city. But
Garber is not stupid. He had a big career in front of
him with the transit authority until he was accused of
taking a bribe. His knowledge about the system helps
the police, and he also has a keen sense of Ryder.
He knows there is more to the man than what he is
revealing about himself.
Denzel Washington and John Travolta
Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter of the film, said,
“Only an actor like Denzel Washington, with his
powerful screen presence and immense talent, could
make such an ordinary character in an ordinary desk
job so compelling to watch.” And producer Todd Black
says about the other lead actor, “When you give him
a truly imposing role, Travolta knows how to pump a
color and energy into it that I think no other actor can.”
Director Tony Scott knows how to deliver a cinematic adrenaline rush, and there are some impressive car crashes and
chases. James Gandolfini is superb as the mayor, a cross between Giuliani and Bloomberg, and there are some nice up-to-
the-minute touches for the era of cell phones, wifi, and Wall Street collapses. It sacrifices some of the original's craftiest
switch-ups for action but the biggest problem is that Travolta never really connects and Washington's fully-realized
portrayal of the troubled but heroic Garber makes even more obvious Travolta's struggle to make his character work.
Travolta may steal the subway car, but it is Washington who steals the movie.
The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3
Directed By: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, John Tutturo
This third version of the story of a hijacked New York subway car may be
superfluous but it still delivers some zip thanks to Tony Scott's flash and
even a bit of heft thanks to Denzel Washington.
The 1974 version had Robert Shaw ("Jaws," "The Sting") as the leader of a
group of trigger-happy thugs and a bitter ex-subway motorman and Walter
Matthau as the transit cop working for the safe return of the hostages. The
film's great strengths were its nicely twisty plot, its superb cast of character
actors (including Jerry Stiller), and its gritty feel for the city at a time of great
economic turmoil and municipal decay. Then there was a made-for-TV
version in 1998 with Vincent D'Onofrio and Edward James Olmos. This time,
it is updated for the era of cell phones, laptops, and failing financial
markets. The leader of the hijackers is John Travolta, with a 70's porn star
mustache, a prison neck tattoo, and a whole lot of attitude. He starts out at
the top of Mount Crazy-Angry and pretty much stays there the whole time.
At the other end of the phone is transit guy Garber (Denzel Washington),
who has depth of expertise and some complications in his work situation.
Walter Garber is a New York City subway dispatcher. Things on this day
are going pretty smoothly until one of the trains is hijacked. Ryder and his
accomplices demand ten million dollars in exchange for the lives of the
passengers. The story gets tense as Ryder starts shooting the passengers.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a dramatic film that
will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. It
contains understated humor which adds to the
story and the characters. Although not for kids, this
is definitely a movie that will be enjoyed by
Some quick shots and camera movements also
add to the feeling of intense urgency as the Mayor
of New York and the police try to find asolution to
this horrific event, all the while Garber and Ryder
are carrying on a communication that moves the
story forward to it's highly dramatic conclusion.
If you like this, try: the 1974 original with Robert
Shaw and Walter Matthau or "Inside Man" with