The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
I was both right and wrong. While it did manage to keep some of the original story, there were some flaws that were noticeable enough to detract from the suspense that I was hoping to feel and that Tony Scott was pushing through every scene.
The first contact the hostages make is with the subway controller, played by Denzel Washington, who gets the call from the leader of the hostage takers played by John Travolta. As the situation is revealed, police and the hostage negotiation team are brought in, however the hostage taker won't speak to anyone else but the subway controller, the man he first talked to, and during the discussions they form a strange bond.
The deadline approaches, and there seems to be no way out for the hostage takers, and the subway controller is getting pulled closer and closer to the situation.
The opening hits you straight away as a Tony Scott film would, the camera speeds varying, action blurring, hard and loud music kicking off the pace, there's no doubt where we are, and there's no delaying in the film either. The titles are actually the start of the film and we watch the hostage takers arrive at platforms waiting for the subway train we're about to see the film centre on, Pelham 1 2 3.
This frantic and vocal pace of Scott's works well during the opening sequences, and during quite a lot of the film, however during the many scenes where we see John Travolta and Denzel Washington playing off of each other's voices over the radio I wish Scott had calmed down on the multi-speed shooting and camera tracking.
What I wanted to do here is concentrate on the performance and the dynamics between the two huge actors, after all with a line-up like this that's one of the aspects you expect to see the film concentrate on, isn't it? It's something that the original did well, building on the two main characters.
The film does do that, it puts at the fore the relationship between the two and adds in a well conceived and scripted twist for the character of the subway controller that brings some more drama to him and bonds the two characters a little closer together.
It's worth pointing out just how different from the original this film is. Of course it's the same story, but they've managed to incorporate enough changes and twists that make it different enough for someone who's seen the original, even just recently.
The clever touches weren't just in the story either, there were some in the film's style too. One thing I especially liked was the way that the film would pause with the time stamp appearing over a major action. That did a good job of adding to the tension.
In fact apart from my annoyance at the camera during the scenes with the two main characters talking to each other over the radio, the filming was slick, frenetic, and added to the overall excitement.
There was plenty of excitement as well, although I do think it was somewhat forced upon us by the pace of the camera and the music, again I would have liked it to rely more on the characters and the story than it did.
That was probably one of the issues with the film for me, because for all that I've said about how well it holds up to the original and how good it looks, I wasn't feeling the tension and suspense as much as I should have been. It seemed to move too quickly to allow the tension to build, and some of the non-mainstream threads were taken care of and wrapped up all too neatly in order that the story would keep leaping forward.
John Travolta made the film for me, and although it leapt over his moments a little too quick and we didn't have the chance to linger on his performance, he was superb as the villain. Denzel Washington delivered his traditionally strong performance too, and his character managed to show a few more layers to him than the original character did.
The picture was superb and coped well with swapping from the darkened interior of the subway tunnels to the bright, daylight outdoors. Quality was perfect too, and I was surprised by that considering they were really filming inside the New York subway system and had to set-up all the required lighting in real tunnels.
5.1 DTS HD Master
The audio is strong, as you would expect with a big Tony Scott film, but with not a whole lot of action the big bangs only come out occasionally but still push the bass. Throughout the film there's good use made of the rear speakers for the ambient sounds of the subway and, when we're above ground, street effects, and it helps to pull you into the location.
Audio Commentary from Tony Scott, Audio Commentary from writer Brian Helgeland and producer Todd Black, No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3, From the Top: Stylising Character with Danny Moumdjian The Lab Salon, Marketing Pelham, CineChat, MovieIQ
Here's an aspect of the disc I had to write about. If you select the icon to turn the audio off, the clicks on the menu stop playing but the short, repetitive, and very soon annoying music track keeps playing. Not quite the audio off, and it did rather annoy me.
Audio Commentary from Tony Scott
If you've a commentary from Tony Scott before you'll know that they can be dry and flat, but filled with behind the scenes information about everything from the early days of development all the way through to the challenges of filming in New York and the subway. This commentary is very informative.
Audio Commentary from writer Brian Helgeland and producer Todd Black
I thought that this would be the tougher commentary for a viewer, with a writer and producer the insightful information given might be more relevant to those inside the industry than the audience. Not so here, there's even more information on the development and filming than we received from Tony Scott, and coupled with the previous audio commentary it provides a very thorough view into how Scott films are developed and made. This commentary is also a but easier to follow as there's a good dynamic between the two speakers.
No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3
An interesting featurette that looks behind the scenes and on set, giving us a visual insight into some of the problems and challenges that had been talked about on the audio commentaries and seeing the actors and crew at work. One of the most interesting parts was seeing how much on set time the real hostage negotiator had.
The Third Rail: New York Underground
A short featurette that looks into the technicalities of filming on the New York Subway and the dangers associated with it.
From the Top: Stylising Character with Danny Moumdjian, The Lab Salon
I can hardly believe this short made it onto the disc. It's about the hair styling of the characters in the film, actually it's a lot less than that, it's about the hairdresser talking up how great he is and advertising his business with a few bits from Tony Scott talking about how important hair is to the film - bear in mind both lead characters have shaved heads and cut goatees.
Trailers, trailers and television spots galore.
The film is enjoyable as a fast paced Tony Scott thriller always is, and the performances from the two leads are great to watch. Although it's not as effective a thriller as the original, it still carries tension and has enough to distance itself from that first film.
The Blu-ray offering has a very good picture and audio track and the two commentaries and additional extras really offere a great insight into how the film was made and the challenges facing the production.
All in all it's a good package and for the two lead actors alone it would be worth getting hold of.