Last Passenger: Film Review

Cohen Media
This high-concept B-movie thriller succeeds in keeping you on the edge of your seat.

A small group of passengers desperately tries to prevent their runaway train from speeding to a fatal crash.

If it hadn’t already been taken, Runaway Train would have served as the perfect title for Omid Nooshin’s tautly paced thriller redolent of both Hitchcock and such high-octane action pictures as Speed and Unstoppable. Depicting the efforts of a handful of passengers to stop a speeding locomotive apparently hijacked by a madman bent on suicide, Last Passenger is a superbly executed B-movie that puts most bigger-budgeted Hollywood efforts to shame. Although its mostly low-profile cast will prevent it from achieving much box-office momentum in America, the British film should do nicely on home video formats.

Co-written by the director and Andrew Love, the screenplay -- once named on the Britlist, a film industry list of the best unproduced screenplays in the UK -- sets up the harrowing situation intelligently and efficiently. The action is set entirely on a commuter train bound from London to the outlying suburbs. By the time the train passes its initial stops, the remaining passengers are Lewis (Dougray Scott), a harried widower doctor rushing to get to the hospital to attend to an emergency influx of patients; Max (Joshua Kaynama), his young son; Sarah (Kara Tointon), a comely event planner who quickly strikes up a flirtation with Lewis; Peter (David Schofield), a snappish businessman; Jan (Iddo Goldberg), a suspiciously hostile Polish construction worker; and Elaine (Lindsay Duncan), a kindly grandmother.

It isn’t long before strange things start happening: Scheduled stops are missed; the guard (Samuel Geker-Kawie) mysteriously disappears and Lewis spies a man crawling on the adjacent track. As it soon becomes clear, the train speeding at 100 miles an hour has been taken over by an unseen figure whose motives remain unclear. The small group of remaining passengers is thus forced to marshal their resources and band together in an effort to stop the train by whatever possible improvised means.

Enhanced by Angus Hudson’s inventive widescreen lensing of the cramped locations and Joe Walker’s razor-sharp editing, the fast-paced film barrels along like a speeding locomotive. Although the screenplay delivers a few red herrings too many in terms of casting suspicion on several of the characters, it’s consistently believable in its depiction of their various desperate schemes, including a strategically-placed explosion intended to separate the cars, to prevent a fatal crash even as the body count slowly rises.  

Displaying a rugged, low-key charisma, Scott is excellent as the ordinary man forced to turn action hero, with the supporting players equally effective in portraying their deceptively one-note characters. Director Nooshin displays terrific ingenuity in his staging of the more complex sequences, with the special effects only occasionally revealing of the film’s limited budget.

Opens April 25 (Cohen Media Group)

Production: NDF International

Cast: Dougray Scott, Kara Tointon, Iddo Goldberg, David Schofield, Lindsay Duncan, Joshua Kaynama, Samuel Geker-Kawie

Director: Omid Nooshin

Screenwriters: Omid Nooshin, Andrew Love

Producers: Ado Yoshizaki Cassuto, Zack Winfield

Executive producers: Michiyo Yoshizaki, Carola Ash, Kwesi Dickson, Stephen Margolis, Steve Norris, Nick Smith, Fumio Nagase, Mike Runagall

Director of photography: Angus Hudson

Editor: Joe Walker

Production designer: Jon Bunker

Costume designer: Ali Mitchell

Composer: Liam Bates

Rated R, 97 min.