Saturday, June 20, 2009
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3
Review by Rob McKinnon
(6/12/09) Rated: R
Director: Tony Scott
Opens: June 12, 2009
Ordinarily I am less than enthusiastic regarding the release of yet another remake. For the most part, unless one is talking about a remake of a film from the 1950s or before, I usually find the remake simply isn’t needed and is usually (almost always) less good than the original. A film such as “The Day The Earth Stood Still” had a story line and a point of view to express. (Yes, I know it was made in the 50s and I know, sin of sins, it is in black and white, but many of my favorite films are in black and white and for films in the cinema noir genre, black and white adds to their visual effectiveness…but I digress.) The recent remake was just more of a CGI video game kind of film sans the subtleness of character, story arc, and point of view of the original.
Occasionally, however, a remake is made that maintains the story integrity of the original and provides an updated environment in which to present the story making it seem less “historical,” i.e., less “old timey” to the younger audience. If this is done without losing character development and the fullness of the story, the viewing experience can be every bit as enjoyable as the original. Just think of John Carpenter’s outstanding remake of “The Thing,” for example.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is another excellent remake. Though containing a number of changes from the original, it is just as engaging, exciting and as true to the book upon which it is based as the original which is a favorite of mine.
Denzel Washington delivers a thoroughly convincing and real portrayal of Walter Garber, the story’s protagonist. Unlike in the original where Walter Matthau’s Garber was a Transit Police Chief Lieutenant, Washington’s Garber is a Transit bureaucrat in equipment purchasing. This change allows us to relate to Garber’s feeling of being overwhelmed when thrust into the middle of a subway train hijacking and hostage taking. We expect an experienced police officer to be able to deal with such a situation, but a guy like us, untrained in hostage negotiations, is really being put through it.
As always, I don’t want to give away any plot points or surprises. Let me just say that if you are new to this story, you’ll have a really exciting ride and feel more than satisfied by the experience. If you are familiar with the original version, you’ll notice some story specifics and characterizations that are changed in this take on the story, but you are most likely to find the changes positive, allowing you to have a new experience with this story. My recommendation is watch them both and just hang-on for a tense and terrific ride. The original, now on DVD, is in my library and the remake, when it comes out on DVD, will be also.
My only criticism of the new version is a little too much shaky camera technique in the action scenes, but this is a matter of personal preference and I think the studios believe this is necessary to hold the younger audience. THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is, however, a great evening’s entertainment and I highly recommend it. – Rob McKinnon