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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3(2009)
Walter Garber is a New York City subway dispatcher whose ordinary day is thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train. Ryder, the criminal mastermind behind the hijacking and leader of a highly-armed gang of four, threatens to execute the train's passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages. But there's one riddle Garber can't solve: even if the thieves get the money, how can they possibly escape?
For more about The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and the The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray release, see the The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzmán, James Gandolfini, John Turturro, Ramón Rodríguez (II)
Director: Tony Scott
» See full cast & crew
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray Review
All aboard for the latest Thriller from Tony Scott.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 1, 2009
Who's responsible for who lives and who dies in New York?
It seems like it's a stigma at best or a mark of certain death at worst to have the word "remake" attached to any picture, especially when trudging into "classic" territory; Psycho's remake is the poster child of all that can go wrong, and while 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three isn't exactly Hitchcock, it's still something of a fan favorite and a fine example of memorable 1970s-style filmmaking. Replacing Walter Matthau with Denzel Washington (Glory) and Robert Shaw with John Travolta (Broken Arrow), Director Tony Scott's (Revenge) 2009 take on the story is surprisingly engaging despite its particularly predictable nature. Still, for as unremarkable as The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 may be in the grand scheme of things, Scott, Washington, and Travolta manage to make the unremarkable rather remarkable. Though the ending comes as no surprise, the talented trio deliver a film packed with intense tit-for-tat dialogue, remarkably real performances, and the director somehow squeezes every last ounce of life out a film that banks heavily on two rather dull locations and minimal action but maximum tension.
Mild-mannered transit authority dispatcher Walter Garber (Washington) is about to have his otherwise monotonous workday routine turned upside down when several heavily armed men -- led by a man that eventually comes to be known as "Ryder" (Travolta) -- hijack a subway car from Pelham station. Garber finds himself the man communicating with Ryder, and it is to Garber that Ryder makes his demands known: $10,000,000 in cash in 60 minutes, delivered to his location. For every minute thereafter that the money is not in his possession, he will kill one hostage. When Garber is taken off the microphone, replaced by hostage negotiator Camonetti (John Turturro (Secret Window), Ryder violently demands Garber return. Matters are further complicated when Garber's shady past is exposed, a revelation that allows Ryder to seize the initiative in the tit-for-tat game in which the two find themselves engaged as the clock quickly counts down towards zero.
Director Tony Scott brings some much-needed visual verve and vigor to a picture that's otherwise necessarily stagnant throughout; the film finds the vast majority of its action in either a stopped subway car or in an office setting, neither of which allow for much in the way of visual stimulation, despite the latter's clean lines, bright lights, and wall of computer monitors that tracks the subway cars. The Tony Scott style is in full effect here, the film featuring a frenetic look that's punctuated by quick edits, fast zooms, a mixture of slow- and fast-motion photography, and plenty of handheld work, and that's just the film's title sequence. It does slow down just a bit once the film gets going, but it keeps things fluid when there would otherwise be no fluidity to the dialogue-heavy action. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, as a requirement of the story, necessitates a tight script to maintain tension, and even though the film's somewhat clichéd "bad guy demands money and if he doesn't get it he'll start offing hostages" routine is the centerpiece of the story, Brian Helgeland's (A Knight's Tale) script features exceptional dialogue, particularly those conversations between Ryder and Garber as they feel one another out and fish for weaknesses while simultaneously -- but slowly -- developing their back stories. All that's left are two actors to pull it off, and Travolta and Washington share brilliant chemistry as two men on opposite sides of both the microphone and the law.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 delivers dialogue-driven drama at its finest. The film works because of Washington's and Travolta's ability to take rather standard stuff and make it personal, important, dangerous, serious, and real. Tony Scott's frenetic direction adds urgency to the tone, but it's the chemistry between the leads that makes Pelham work so well. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 features another stalwart performance from Denzel Washington, but his character is a far cry from the sorts he portrayed in his previous collaborations with Tony Scott, namely Déjà Vu and Man on Fire. Here, Washington sports a hint of gray hair, wears a sweater and glasses, and is thereby painted as more of an everyman rather than as a force to be reckoned with. As such, it's much easier for the audience to connect with the hero on a personal level as he learns on the fly how to deal with a crisis situation. The one trait he shares in common with his character from Man on Fire is that Garber is a flawed -- albeit modestly -- character himself, though it's a trait that seems to work to his benefit in his relationship with Ryder. On the other side of the coin, John Travolta plays his part with a delicious and lively deviousness and a hint of insanity lurking behind the professionally-executed hijacking, but at the same time emitting an aura of danger and deadly seriousness that ups the ante considerably. It seems unreal that there was a pre-Pulp Fiction Travolta that seemed long since forgotten, but The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 features the actor at the top of his game and showing that he still has some gas in the tank. The film also features strong performances from James Gandolfini (All the King's Men) and John Turturro.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 arrives on Blu-ray with a strong 1080p. 2.39:1-framed transfer. This one delivers everything discerning viewers have come to expect of a Sony new release. The film's grain structure is left intact throughout, providing to the image a pleasant film-like quality; likewise, other signs of artificial image manipulation are not present. The transfer reveals extraordinary levels of fine detail throughout; though the bleaker subway car interior and tunnel exterior shots don't have much to offer from a visual perspective, the rest of the image shines. Close-ups of faces reveal -- and probably much to the chagrin of the actors -- every pore, imperfection, and stubble of facial hair. Several birds-eye view shots of New York City look positively amazing; there's not a soft edge or dulled detail to be seen, and the image retains impeccable clarity in every shot and at any distance. The film features a broad range of color presentation; the interior of the subway car takes on a somewhat murky, green tint, with not much opportunity for sparkling hues, but the scenes above in New York City and inside the control center feature a nice, clean, and clear palette that looks wonderful, from bright yellow taxis to the Mayor's red tie. Black levels are beautifully rendered; the subway tunnel scenes deliver pitch-perfect dark shadows that retain an inky tone with nary a hint of gray. Likewise, flesh tones appear accurately rendered. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 looks excellent on Blu-ray in every regard.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 pulls onto Blu-ray with an impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Like the video, this one delivers a positively booming yet clear and entertaining soundtrack that's the norm from Sony action-oriented titles. Though The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is primarily a dialogue-heavy film, there are still plenty -- just somewhat scattered -- opportunities for the soundtrack to shine. Listeners will not only hear but also feel the subway car speeding down the tracks in one early scene; even later in the picture as the cars are separated, the more slowly meandering movements along the track deliver a full and lifelike sonic experience. The rear channels are fully utilized throughout; not only do the subway cars rattle through the soundstage, but police sirens blare in several scenes and general ambience -- both in external city shots and inside the control room -- place the listener squarely into the experience. Several scenes featuring gunfire erupt nicely, particularly those shots that reverberate through the subway tunnels. Music enjoys a crystal-clear and distortion-free presentation with a robust low-end support, and dialogue reproduction is consistently faultless. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 sounds just as good as it looks on Blu-ray.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 boards Blu-ray with a nice selection of extra materials, the package headlined by a pair of commentary tracks. The first features Director Tony Scott discussing the film's ability to stand alone from the original, Scott's initial involvement with the project, casting the parts and the strengths the primaries brought to the film, the rigors and challenges of the shoot, and much more. Track two features Writer Brian Helgeland and Producer Todd Black. This is a fairly cut-and-dry track that covers the expected angles with the appropriate level of enthusiasm and insight. They discuss the ensemble cast, getting the project off the ground and the challenge of delivering a quality picture, set design, creating the thick tension that permeates the film, and much more. Next is No Time to Lose: The Making of 'Pelham 1 2 3' (1080p, 30:25), a quality piece that looks at a broad spectrum of topics, including pitching the film to Sony and Denzel Washington, updating the look and feel of the film, the challenges of the shoot, the work of the actors and the research that went into crafting the most realistic characters possible, and plenty more. The Third Rail: New York Underground (1080p, 16:15) takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the public transit system in New York city and shooting in the city's real subway system. From the Top Down: Stylizing Character with Danny Moumdjian, the Lab Salon (480p, 5:17) looks at the importance of the right haircut in Hollywood.
Marketing 'Pelham' (1080p, 7:04) contains various trailers for the film. Also included Sony's CineChat application; BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality; Sony's "MovieIQ" that offers live, up-to-date details about every scene, including cast and crew filmographies and biographies, soundtrack listings, and more; and 1080p trailers for Angels & Demons, District 9, Moon, Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day, Blood: The Last Vampire, Black Dynamite, The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale, and Year One. Disc two of this set contains a digital copy of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Replayed on a second generation iPod Touch, listeners will be greeted with a strong, hefty, clear soundtrack that spreads information nicely across the two-channel presentation. The video quality is solid; colorful, bright, crisp, and nicely detailed, the only problem is persistent blocking, but for on-the-go viewing, the presentation -- both video and audio -- is more than adequate.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is one of those rare movies that succeeds despite its predictable story arc. This is, at a glance, basic stuff, a routine good guy versus bad guy showdown that involves the ubiquitous hostages and demand for large sums of money, but Scott's direction, Helgeland's script, and Washington's and Travolta's performances in particular turn an ordinary movie into one that's borderline extraordinary. Sony's Blu-ray effort is, itself, excellent. Featuring the expected near-reference quality video and audio presentations alongside a strong collection of extras, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 comes highly recommended.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: Other Editions
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Lightning Deal: The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan, The Taking ... - November 26, 2010
For its third Black Friday lightning deal, Amazon is offering three Blu-ray movies at reduced prices: The Hurt Locker for $9.99 (71% off MSRP); Saving Private Ryan for $9.99 (80% off MSRP); and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 for $5 (80% off MSRP). These prices expire ...
• The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Blu-ray Announced - August 17, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced 'The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3' for November 3, day-and-date with the DVD. Note that this is the 2009 version of the thriller, directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. The movie will be ...
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