Release Date: June 12th, 2009
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Walter Garber(Denzel Washington) is an MTA dispatcher for the New York City Subway system assigned to the Rail Control Center. The day is going just like any other day until four heavily armed men lead by a man who goes by Ryder(John Travolta) board the subway 6 train Pelham 123 and proceed to take it over. When Garber notices that the train has stopped, he radios the car and asks what the problem is. Instead of getting an answer, Ryder and his men unhook the first car from the rest of the train and block of the entrance to the tunnel, keeping 18 hostages in the first car with them and letting everybody else go. Ryder then radios Garber and tells him that he is holding the car and the people in it hostage and that he demands $10 million dollars for the prisoners. Ryder tells Garber to look at his watch and tell him what time it is. He sees that it is 1:13 pm. Ryder tells him that the city of New York has exactly 1 hour to give him the money or he will kill one hostage for every minuet the money is late.
The police are promptly told about the situation and a hostage negotiation team lead by Lt. Camonetti(John Turturro) arrives on the scene and relieves Garber of his position, taking over talks with Ryder. When Ryder hears that Garber is not there, he becomes angry and threatens to kill the trains operator, a classmate of Garber's in motor school, if Garber doesn't return. Lt. Camonetti calls Ryder's bluff, and Ryder kills the train operator. Garber is quickly escorted back to the radio within one second of Ryder killing another passenger. Camonetti sets up a sniper team in the subway tunnel, which Ryder is fully aware of. Camonetti orders the team to hold fire until ordered otherwise. Ryder will only speak to Garber, threatening to kill a hostage if anyone else takes over. The reason for Ryder only speaking to Garber is unclear until Camonetti learns that Garber is on probation pending an investigation into allegations that Garber took a bribe from a Japanese train manufacturer to refer their company as the next contract with MTA. Camonetti then questions Garber about being involved, but nothing is proven. In the meantime the Mayor(James Gandolfini) is intercepted by his staff on a train in the Bronx, and told about the situation. He agrees to pay the group their money and begins making arrangements.
The money is put into a police car and begins heading to Grand Central Station, but when the cop car is hit by another car, it flips off of a bridge and crashes. The motorcycle escort then grabs the bags of cash and speeds to the station. The money is late and Ryder plans to make good on his promise of killing a hostage. He approaches a woman holding her son and gets ready to kill her when another passenger stands in front of Ryder, prompting him to kill him instead. Ryder obliges and shoots the man several times in the chest. Garber tells Ryder the money is there and Ryder demands that Garber bring it down into the tunnel personally. Garber agrees and heads down into the tunnel where a police officer stashes a gun in one of the bags and shows Garber how to use it. When Garber gets to the train, Ryder forces him to drive because their other driver, and ex-MTA train operator named Ramos(Luis Guzman) was shot and killed by the police snipers when a rat crawled into the pant leg of the sniper and bit him, causing him to lose control and discharge his weapon. Garber takes the train to a special area of the tracks where the hijackers and Garber exit the train, but not before Ryder installs a locking mechanism on the train controls that holds the stick at full speed, by-passing the dead-man's switch. Garber escapes from Ryder when another subway train cuts them off from each other. Garber then follows Ryder who separates from the other two hijackers and gets into a cab. Garber tracks him to the Manhattan Bridge where Ryder is found walking along the sidewalk. Garber pulls his gun and confronts Ryder, telling him that his plan is over and not to move. Ryder then makes one final deal with Garber, telling Garber to kill him and if he doesn't then Ryder will kill him. Ryder counts down from 10 and at the last second draws his gun when Garber shoots him one time in the chest. Before dying, Ryder tells Garber that he is his hero.
Remakes seem to be popular in Hollywood. However, this remake of the 1974 film of the same name, isn't a crappy rip off of the first film and actually changes some things around to make it more original than a traditional remake. This movie is based on hostages and hijackers and a very hefty ransom. This formula usually calls for a lot of gunfights, explosions, and action, yet this movie didn't have hardly any of that. Instead, this movie decided to focus the drama on the dialogue and the interaction between Travolta's character and Washington's character, which worked out really good. Travolta did a really good job of making you see a different side of the criminal "Ryder". The whole concept of a typical hostage situation is the ransom money. But for Ryder, it was more about blaming the city of New York. In some points of the movie Travolta makes you actually sympathize with Ryder and see him as something other than a crazy hijacker/murderer. Travolta and Washington also worked well together in this film. The two actors had a good chemistry. Washington has this amazing ability to make you completely forget that he is a highly famous actor and believe he is the same person you see him as in the movie.
I liked the way Ryder and Garber's character aced with each other and how Ryder made it seem like they were friends. Travolta's character seemed to really like Washington's character, often saying things about him like "I like him" or "he sounds cool". One thing you wouldn't expect from a movie like this was comedy. A highly dramatic thriller like this wouldn't seem right if it made you laugh, but the funny parts in this movie actually worked. The mostly came from Travolta's character. Ryder was often seen making racial remarks against John Turturro's character and just saying crazy things that were so wild they were funny. Not to mention Travolta's profound use of the "F" bomb every other word. The used this word, and multiple variations of it, so many times that it became a little redundant and there came a point where it was just too much. I'm not trying to down cursing in a movie, but it has to have a sense of realism about it and Travolta's character said it to the point of absurdity.
But probably my favorite aspect of the movie was the twist. I love a movie with a good twist, and this one had a decent one. They didn't wait until the very end of the movie to unveil the true plot of the hijackers, and if you are observant then you may be able to figure it out sooner than others. I'm not going to tell you what the twist is, because I'm going to let you figure it out, but it definitley makes the story more interesting than a simple hijacking for ransom movie. I also liked how even though this movie was a remake, they didn't remake it frame by frame from the first movie. They changed a lot of things around. For instance, in the 1974 movie, the man who talked to the hijackers was a Transit Police officer named Zachary Garber(Walter Matthau) instead of the Walter Garber dispatcher played by Washington. They also bumped up the ransom from $1 million in the 1974 film to $10 million to make it more relevant to the times. They also didn't have the same twist in the original movie. All of these little things give this remake the originality missing in most movies remade these days.
Overall this movie was pretty good. Travolta and Washington performed as good as you would expect from two award-winning actors and the direction of the movie was good. It brought originality to a story that had been done before and really did a good job of drawing you in and holding your attention through the whole movie. Although the unnecessarily overuse of the "F" word could draw you away from the film, it isn't quite enough to ruin the whole thing for you. I give The Taking of Pelham 123 7 Hijacked Subway Cars out of 10.
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