The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Genre(s): Drama / Thriller
Sony || R - 106 minutes - $28.96 || November 3, 2009
Reviewer: Tyler Thomas || Posted On: 2009-11-08

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Tony Scott
Writer(s): John Godey (novel); Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzman, John Turturro, James Gandolfini

Theatrical Release Date: June 12, 2009

Supplemental Material:
  • 2 Feature Commentaries
  • 4 Featurettes

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French

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.::THE FILM::.

Thereís always a problem in todayís Hollywood market of actors and actresses of being typecast to the point of me not wanting to see a film. For example, is it believable to see someone like Sacha Baron Cohen in a love flick? Or Leonardo DiCaprio in a film that doesnít have a sinking boat? Not really, so that brings me to the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. Travolta and Washington, as the good and bad guy respectively, are amazing in their roles here in the film. The issue here is the fact that itís something weíve seen before. Travolta in Swordfish, Face/Off, and a bunch of other films. Washington in... well pretty much everything heís done before. Now, onto the hostage negotiations that is this flick.

Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) was recently demoted from a high-paying job due to him being accused of taking a bribe. He used to work as a train specialist, but now he is merely the person who makes sure the trains run on time on a big screen and check-in at certain points on the track. Little does he know though that this day at work will be his most revealing day ever, in more ways than one. A team of men with big guns hijacks a subway train, aptly titled Pelham 123, imagine that, and demand a ransom in exchange for the passengers. The group is led by Phil Ramos (Luis Guzman) and Ryder (John Travolta), each with an axe to grind against the city that allegedly screwed them over in the past.

Ryder takes over the train and informs Garber about the ransom demands, and as Garber scrambles to contact the police and the mayor itís clear that Ryder means serious business. The train has about twenty or so people on it, and Ryder and his crew is ready to kill them off his demands arenít met. The demand he has is simple: $10,000,000 and one cent. The number seems odd, but makes more sense as the story progresses. Garber doesnít want to deal with this and leaves the hostage negotiator Camonetti (John Turturro) to start the negotiation, and this ticks off Ryder. Ryder ends up shooting a hostage and warns Garber not to leave again. It is here that Garberís day actually begins, as Ryder forces him to confess about the bribe and we learn that in fact he did take the bribe but for certain reasons. Can Garber end the negotiation peacefully and get the passengers off the train, or are they doomed under the hijackers that Ryder and Ramos have control over?

This is a great and compelling film that had me going from start to finish. Yes there is a twist that could be seen coming as to why Ryder and his gang are there, which I managed to figure out roughly halfway through, but itís still a great twist that some will find clever. The plot here is also riveting, as people will wonder if the hostages are going to make it out alive, and let me tell you some of them wonít, so the plot is great.

This is a movie thatís been done before. Yes, I know itís a remake, but itís something that weíve seen before multiple times from these actors. How many times does Travolta need to be a bad guy or Washington the hero who always saves the day? Itís just too repetitious and that was just such a huge problem for me I couldnít get past it. Donít get me wrong though, as the acting is superb from the entire cast. This is just something thatís been done so many times that itís hard to enjoy anymore these days. I was also incredibly shocked the number of times the F-bomb is used in this film, as I stopped counting after fifty or so in the first forty-five or so minutes.


Commentary with Tony Scott: Scott isnít exactly the best person to be doing a commentary solo, as his voice isnít the most pleasing to hear. There were also a few dead areas that went on for a few minutes with no voice over from him going on, so I suggest listening to the track below as that one seemed to provide more information and much less dead time. Commentary with Brian Helgeland and Todd Black: The writer and producer join forces to tackle the film in a light-hearted commentary that is both informational and fun to listen to. They both talk pretty equally throughout, and point out some of the story points and how they wanted to work both Travolta and Washington into the audiences view point. This is clearly the better of the two tracks if I had to pick just one to listen to.

The Making of Pelham 123 (30 minutes): This is your standard making-of feature that deals with how some of the shots are made from the movie and what went into making them what they were in the flick. Itís too lengthy for my tastes, as after about ten minutes it did drag on for a bit.

New York Underground (16 minutes): The cast and crew talk about the difficulties of filming the movie on a train and other various obstacles that had to be solved. The cast is interesting when they discuss the movie, so I suggest a viewing of this extra just to get some behind-the-scenes action.

Stylizing Character (5 minutes): Scott discusses how the characters werenít meant to look, mainly through their style of hair, and how it went into the film itself. Not really that interesting unless of course you are into the make-up process and that sort of thing.

Marketing Pelham (7 minutes): This doesnít talk about the marketing of the movie at all. Instead, itís just a mesh of all the previews for the film bundled into one extra.


This is probably one of the best DVD transfers that Iíve seen over the past few months. The color palette is absolutely gorgeous for this film! The colors are dark and dreary while in the train section, and then in the above ground scenes we get much brighter colors. This is used (as I recently learned in a film course) to differentiate the good and bad guys of the movie, and itís used perfectly here. There is however the nagging issue as usual with darker films of the massive amounts of grain that plagues the film in some shots, but in all honesty I barely noticed it after a little bit of the movie. Sure, itís there, and most will look past it, there is still a lot of it there though that may create a bit of an eyesore for some viewers. Other than that one minor glitch with this transfer, it is a great looking flick.

Sadly though, as great as the video transfer is, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is lacking in terms of decent quality. The audio levels are all over the place here, with little to no surround usage throughout the runtime. The scenes above ground were much louder than the train scenes, which caused me to tweak the volume numerous times up until the point where I just gave up. In terms of surround use, I only heard my surround speakers go off a handful of times. There are only two or three action sequences in the film itself, so those looking for a great track should look elsewhere. The low dialogue levels and the complete lack of surround usage is such a shame.


The Taking of Pelham 123 is a great film that showcases Travolta and Washington at the best theyíve been in quite some time. The problem here is just the fact that itís something weíve seen before on multiple occasions with their past films, hence probably why the movie didnít do so well in theaters. The special features package is decent and the video transfer is excellent. The bad news is the audio track leaves much to be desire. This is easily worth a purchase for fans of the cast, and a rental for those who arenít.