The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Scott, 2009)

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The excruciating and infuriating Domino appears to be the apex of Tony Scott’s cinema of inanity, a striking critique against the director’s mind-numbing visual style and love for fast-pasted, fractured editing. Deja Vu finds Scott in a sort of toned-down visual purgatory, a place of maddening compression yet intriguing potential, where the hypnotic colors of New Orleans and the time-structured plot offer some semblance of purpose within the cinematic space. Sure, Scott still jams the frame with snazzy visual tricks and audio cues, but at least he’s attempting to construct a coherent narrative arc in the process. There’s tension rooted in the drama and it merges with Scott’s frantic image, at times providing an engaging window into the director’s vision of a modern disjointed world.

If Deja Vu offered some hope Scott was trying to use his style to compliment story and character, his remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 dispenses that momentum quickly, leading the viewer into an anticlimactic cat and mouse game streamlined by his aforementioned auteurist tendencies. During the frenzied opening credit sequence, Scott swirls around NYC combining fast motion, slow motion, and endless variations in between as if his camera is being flushed down the preverbal toilet. This satellite inspired omniscient eye does nothing to advance the film in any way, except to nail home the fact that this is a Tony Scott film. As the tatted high-jacker (John Travolta) and  MTA dispatcher (Denzel Washington) battle out their way with words, Scott occasionally warps back into this visual framework, juggling the interiors of the train, tunnel, and even the command center of the MTA as if they were cavernous labyrinths of cinematic possibility. But as usual, it’s all for show, no substance, no mentality, no point. These characters exist primarily for Scott to manipulate the frame in the same tired way he’s be doing for going on a decade, and finding any entertainment, let alone subtext in this mashed world of hyper-kinetic movement is getting harder and harder.

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2 thoughts on “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Scott, 2009)

  1. I generally hate Tony Scott films, but I LOVED “Domino” and think it is his very best — by a long shot. Maybe I (or you) had better take a second look at it. So over the top that it actually WORKS as it comes together, it is almost delightful — perhaps because all the characters are so crazy that for once his hyper-ventilating style fits the story and its subjects. But Pelham, I don’t know… Sounds like, once again, style trumps content rather stupidly. I’ll wait for the DVD.

  2. Jim – respectfully, I’m not sure I can sit through Domino again. Large quantities of alcohol would be needed. I’m usually keen on going back and revisiting films as you know, but It’s by far one of the worst, incoherent films I’ve ever seen.

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