Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The (UK - BD)
After a snow delay, our Marcus finally gets around to his first review of 2010
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (that’s such a mouthful of a title isn’t it?) throws us straight into a New York City subway hostage situation led by the trigger happy Ryder (John Travolta). He’s got the hostages, he’s got the subway train (Pelham 1 2 3 incidentally) and he’s got the plan. Now with his chosen point of contact, train station dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) at the other end of a walkie talkie it’s gonna come down to will he get the money or are people gonna start dying?
Tony Scott returns with his forth Denzel Washington headlining thriller and once again I come away not really liking Tony Scott’s chaotic film style at all. Ever since Man on Fire hit it big and Scott took his usual madcap quick editing style up to eleven, he has just gone from crazy to crazier. Pelham 1 2 3 proves to be more of the same (though thankfully not as batshit nuts as Domino) with flashy colours, jumping film styles and the usual fast paced story telling that gives you no time to question just how all of this happening so quickly without any glitches.
Of course not liking a director's style doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate that he gets the job done. The cast helps matters with the always reliable Denzel Washington playing his usual everyman well and Travolta once again having oodles of fun playing the bad guy, even if he’s not always that great at it (JT just can’t sell the delivery of his overused catchphrase ‘motherfucker!’ here at all). The two of them bounce off of each other well, even if the jump from terrorist throwing instructions to fully fledged two way conversation came a little too quick for me but luckily each provide enough believability to these paper thin thriller characters for you to care where all of this goes.
Despite being an easy enough watch, Pelham 1 2 3 shows its cracks as the movie goes on and by the last act all of the set ups in the first two thirds don’t really amount to much. We get a couple of shoe horned in car chases, including one that shows the most inept police force this side of a Smokey and The Bandit movie (three major crashes in a few blocks... seriously?), we get a John Turturro led FBI team that just don’t seem to have any presence beyond a sharp shooter guffing up a shot after getting bitten by a rat (really!) and even though Travolta’s character plot sort of makes sense I was left thinking that his final scenes deserved a bit of a twist. Also Denzel’s convenient ‘out’ from his work situation was nonsense. It just felt a little too well tied up for my liking, but hey, this is a flashy thriller, I wasn’t expecting too much more.
As with many, if not all Tony Scott movies, the visuals generally look great (even if the editing of them together doesn’t). This is no exception, with most of the runtime looking absolutely glorious in high definition. The golds, greens and reds of Scott’s palette play wonderfully against the deep blacks and textures are astonishing. You can see every blemish and bump on Denzel’s face and Turturro’s hair has never been so fascinating, especially under the lights of the very well lit subway control room (with it’s totally over the top monitoring wall computer).
Without committing to saying that this transfer was perfect, it’s really hard to pinpoint any issues with it, even the intentionally grainy style of some of the scenes looked brilliant. Pelham 1 2 3 is a fine new 2010 member to the Blu-ray catalogue and fans of the movie should not be disappointed at all.
Despite a lot of heavy bass moments and some room filling gunfire, much of Pelham 1 2 3's DTS-HD Master Audio track is surprisingly subtle, though that could be put down to the fact that the wall of audio was so constant that none of the individual elements really got their chance to show off.
Passing subway trains fill out the rear speakers throughout the Travolta scenes and the very, very typical funky heart beat thriller score fills out much of everything else. Dialogue sits snugly in the centre speaker and provides a strong and clear presentation of the back-and-forths between characters and while some of the (tacked on) dynamic action scenes didn’t quite call enough attention to themselves, it’s not enough of an issue to take the sheen off of what proved to be a very solid audio presentation.
Tony Scott’s commentary comes in bursts and provides some specific details to inform us of the techniques used in his movie. Usually these details concern the subway history, ways of making the conversations between his leads interesting and the limitations of filming underground in live subway systems, it’s quite a good commentary despite the gaps but is nowhere near as lively as the second commentary with writer Brian Helgeland and producer Todd Black. They provide plenty of insight on how this re-imagining got made, how it differs from the original movie and novel, stories about both of their histories, working with Denzel Washington and Tony Scott and their look into the movie making process in general.
The first of the featurettes comes with a very generic making of, ‘No Time to Lose’ (30:25 HD), full of the usual stories and back patting from the cast and crew.
‘The Third Rail: New York Underground’ (16:15 HD) provides a little background to one of the world’s most famous public transport systems and ‘From the Top Down’ (05:17 SD) focuses on Danny Moumdjiam, a hairdresser located in Beverly Hills that Tony Scott uses to style his characters. Now, bearing in mind that this is generally about the two leads hair and that they both essentially just have shaved heads in the movie, this guy seems to be getting a whole lot of hype for pulling out the trimmer.
‘Marketing Pelham’ presents the movie's trailer and within the trailer selections we get previews for Terminator Salvation, 2012, The International, The Ugly Truth, Angels and Demons[/i] and of course, Blu-ray is High Definition.
Lastly there’s BD Live, Cinechat and MovieIQ included on the disc.
Despite the bland featurettes and okay commentaries not really selling the disc on the features front, Pelham 1 2 3's A/V presentation is impressive in almost every way and a great show of the strengths of Blu-ray.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 was a dead easy way of wasting a couple of hours. It’s typical with a capital 'T' and opts for the pretty bow method of wrapping up its events as opposed to throwing five or six twists at you for the sake of it. That said, Tony Scott’s directorial style does nothing for me and even though he provides a solid bit of entertainment he does absolutely nothing extraordinary with it, making The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 pretty forgetable in the end.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 11th January 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 German, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Italian, English Audio Description Service 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Eglish HoH, German, Italian, Danish, Finish, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish
Extras: Commentary with Director Tony Scott, Commentary with Writer Brian Helgeland and Producer Todd Black, No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3, The Third Rail: New York Underground, From the Top Down: Stylizing Character, Marketing Pelham, CineChat, MovieIQ
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta
Genre: Action, Crime and Drama
Length: 105 minutes
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