Last Passenger (and 5 other films set on trains)
A feature-length debut from writer / director Omid Nooshin, Last Passenger is a British suspense thriller starring Dougray Scott and Kara Tointon as commuters trapped on a terrifying train journey.
Lewis Shaler (Scott) is a down-on-his luck medic taking his son on a trip from their home in Sevenoaks to London for some much-needed escapism; Lewis is a widowed, overworked father without much to look forward to, so when he strikes up a friendship with an attractive, flirtatious stranger (Tointon) it seems things are finally looking up. So far so sedate, but the return trip begins to turn bad when Lewis discovers that the conductor is missing. Worse, he then learns that the train’s brakes have been sabotaged and the train’s driver has murderous intentions for everyone on board.
There’s an obvious Hitchcock influence on the film – Nooshin uses the single setting to great effect, creating a palpable sense of claustrophobia. There are some issues with the story however; at no point are the driver or his motives revealed and the film’s ending lacks resolution as a result, technically it's quite a feat, but the fact you have no idea why the train has been hijacked means it's hard to really get involved in the story.
In any case, the film got us thinking: how many good films set on trains are there really? We dug out five of our favourites…
The Taking of Pelham 123
Tony Scott’s 2009 remake of this 1974 Joseph Sargent film stars Denzel Washington as a subway dispatcher named Walter who is sucked in to a terrifying hostage ordeal when an armed gang led by a man called Ryder (John Travolta) hijack a New York subway train. Ryder demands the city pays them $10 million within an hour or he will begin shooting hostages. It didn’t do so well at the box office in the UK but it’s a well-acted, taut thriller with some great cinematography and nail-biting action sequences.
The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson’s 2007 film stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman as three squabbling brothers who embark on a train journey across India, organised by eldest brother Francis (Wilson) in an attempt to get his brothers to bond with each other following the death of their father. Funny and heart-warming in equal measure, this film shows why Anderson is a master of quirky human dramas.
A Hard Day’s Night
Billed as a ‘rock & roll comedy adventure’, Richard Lester’s 1964 film stars none other then The Beatles and follows their trip from Liverpool to London as they make their way to a TV performance, also starring Steptoe and Son actor Wilfrid Brambell as Paul McCartney’s granddad, who gets into a series of scrapes and repeatedly interrupts their journey. This is a fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but Ringo actually received much critical praise for his acting performance and Beatles fans will love it.
North by North West
While not exclusively set on a train, we just had to include Hitchcock’s classic from 1959. Cary Grant stars as an advertising executive named Roger Thornihill who is caught up in a web of spies and espionage after a case of mistaken identity which soon sees him framed for a murder and on the run from the police. Thornhill boards a train to Chicago and meets a blonde who helps keep him hidden from his would-be captors, but as you would expect with a Hitchcock film, all is not what it seems and the film’s twists and turns keep the viewer gussing until the end. Essential viewing.
The Cassandra Crossing
This underrated 1976 film directed by George Cosmatos features a stellar cast including Sophia Loren, Martin Sheen, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster and O.J. Simpson as passengers trapped on a train following an outbreak of disease on board that leaves them quarantined. The performances are brilliant and the plot is packed with intrigue and suspense, making this a fantastic disaster-thriller that is not to be missed.