Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

2009, US, directed by Tony Scott

I haven't seen the original The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 for a while but if memory serves it showcases plenty of the grit of mid-1970s New York, just as this generally enjoyable updating has the slickness, and perhaps some of the more commercially antiseptic qualities, of the city's current incarnation. This is Tony Scott in relatively toned-down mode: he doesn't engage in nearly the same level of visual experimentation - particularly with changes of film stock and colour schemes - that have become his recent stock-in-trade. That said, his characteristic focus on atmospherically-lit sets is very much intact, as the aesthetics of the film's subway tunnels amply demonstrate - giant fans artfully creating shadows and blinking light effects, contrasted with the warmer lighting of the control room where Denzel Washington does his work.

As ever, Scott loses no time in plugging us into the action; that's perhaps his greatest strength as a storyteller, his ability to cut to the heart of the matter within a minute or two of the opening sequence. The storyline established, he has an exceptional ability to then hold the audience's attention as the plotting grows more outlandish, while still delivering the natural confrontations and resolutions that a film like this demands. Despite its generic qualities, the final shot is also nicely chosen, marking a return to the benign normality from which Washington's character has been so unexpectedly plucked.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States