Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3; thriller, USA, 1974; D: Joseph Sargent, S: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman, Jerry Stiller

New York. Four men wearing trench coats and fake moustaches, known only by their code names - Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown - storm a subway train, halt it and take 18 people inside as hostages. They contact Lt. Garber and demand a million $ ransom money in only one hour, or else they will shoot one hostage for every minute of delay. The mayor agrees and the police hand the criminals the beg of money. The criminals then attach a pipe on the gas pedal and cause the train to drive while they walk away on foot. However, due to differences, Mr. Grey is shot. Mr. Brown is killed by an undercover police officer, while Mr. Blue electrocutes himself to death in order to avoid Garber arresting him. The fourth accomplice is accidentally visited by Garber in his apartment. The Lieutenant recognizes him by his sneezing.

One of the classic thrillers from the 70s, "The Taking of Pelham 123" still holds up surprisingly well even today: it owes that freshness to some timeless themes about human greed; as well as a concise narrative; excellent performances by Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, who portray the Lieutenant and criminal trying to outsmart each other; a fine pace; a smooth rhythm and a clever story that was carefully planned beforehand in order for every little detail to have a payoff at the end (the final sequence is so masterful, thanks only to one little detail involving sneezing, that it will make the viewers smile). Some minor complaints could be aimed at a few inconsistencies (the four criminals exit the train, but make it drive for miles thanks to a device that pushes the gas pedal: why didn't the passengers simply remove the device to stop the train once the criminals were not there anymore?) and the underused character of Lt. Garber in the first half, as well as a lack of surprises or a few conventional dialogues, yet other than that, director Joseph Sargent displayed an elegant hand in leading the story. "Pelham" is in touch with both the wishes of the critics and the audience, and thus crafts a fast and easy to follow plot that is entertaining and smart at the same time.


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