Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Dir: Tony Scott
Starring: John Travolta, Denzel Washington
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins

The Taking of Pelham 123 is a non-stop thrill ride under the city of New York, and maybe even into outer space. A criminal mastermind (Travolta) hijacks a subway train with one simple goal in mind: he wants to take Pelham 123 all the way to the moon. He doesn't want any money; he has no political agenda. All he wants to do is get that subway train with himself, and the hijacked passengers, onto the Earth's moon.

The main plot is broken up with a series of flashbacks, in which a young Travolta stares longingly at the moon, establishing the lunar obsession that will one day cause him to hijack a train. "Papa" the moonstruck boy says, "One day, I want to ride a subway up there, up there on the moon!"

"You shut your yapper about all this moon mumbo jumbo," his father slurs. The heavy stench of dessert wine practically wafts off the screen. "Ain't no subway ever going to be on the moon." Then his father beats him. He beats him for dreaming the same dreams he himself once dreamt as a young boy. Dreams that could never be more than dreams. He wants his son to forget these silly dreams of subways and moons.

But the boy never forgets them. If anything, the beatings only harden his will to succeed.

A simple man (Washington) goes work at his simple job of controlling New York's subways. It's not the most exciting job in the world, and that's just the way he likes it. He has several cop buddies who go after the real bad guys. The only "bad guy" Washington has to deal with is the occasional late train. Speaking of which, it looks like Pelham 123 is stuck.

"Pelham 123, respond," says Washington into the phone, expecting the train's operator to respond with something about signal problems, or perhaps a joke about molemen blocking the tracks.

Instead there is only a sinister laugh.

"Who is this?" demands Washington.

"This is the man who is going to take this subway to the moon! If I don't get on the moon in 59 minutes, in this train, I'm going to start killing hostages!"

Negotiations begin as the clock runs down. Washington offers money, but Travolta will not compromise on his one demand.

"I've spoken to NASA," says Washington. "There's going to be a moon mission in three months. We've worked out an agreement that if you give yourself up peacefully, we can put you on that shuttle, under police custody of course."

"You don't understand, do you?" screams Travolta. "This isn't about getting to the moon in one of your fancy space shuttles. This is about getting to the moon on the subway."

"I'm trying to work with you," pleads Washington "But there are no tracks that go to the moon. Subways go underground; the moon is in outer space. Please, listen to me!"

"Life is simple now. You just have to get this train on the moon," Travolta screams, and then hangs up.

*Spoiler Alert*

Washington comes up with a plan that's just crazy enough to work. Local residents cooperate, as they transform Pelham 123's next stop to look like the moon. They even remove the tile lettering of "34th Street" and replace them with "The Moon."

Washington announces over the train intercom, "Next stop- the moon!"

The subway pulls into Moon Station. A euphoric Travolta exits the train, and is promptly tackled by the "moon police" and dragged off to "moon jail." Travolta doesn't even care; his dream has come true. But his cell-mate, Travis, reveals the disturbing truth to Travolta in a poignant final scene.

"This ain't no moon jail, man. This is just jail. We on Earth. Look around you, man. We on Earth."

We on Earth.

4 out of 5 stars.


Sean Catlett said...

Kinda weird that John Travolta's twin, played by Sam Rockwell, only wants to drive a subway car but gets stuck on Moon duty for the duration of his life, slowly going insane for some reason. I forget the title of the movie this was portrayed in.

Tom Thayer said...

I believe you're thinking of "Moonstuck." Great film. Who can forget the famous scene where Rockwell stares at an Earth he will never set foot on again, and sighs "Moon duty is for chumps. Chumps like me."

maddogmama said...

I saw Pelham 123 and I thoght it was a great movie. However, I think your version of it is even more brilliant. Have you thought of making movies?

Sean Catlett said...

He once directed an adaptation Cyrano de Bergerac with Michael Keaton as Christian, Norm Macdonald as Roxane and a giant spinning dog aflame instead of a giant nose. It sounded like a bold piece of work but legend has it the studio called the film 'fucking frightening... and way too faggy' before dropping the rough cut into the Atlantic.

However, some footage survived and was used in The Commitments -- pay close attention to the background during Mustang Sally.

Andrew Chen said...

Hey, wait a minute, this sounds like an episode of 30 Rock.

Tom Thayer said...

30 Rock steals all my ideas. Did you know they also steal from the Muppet Show?