Friday, April 25, 2014

The latest movie in a confined space, a large one: Omid Nooshin's LAST PASSENGER, a good one

You might not think of a speeding train as a confined-space film; after all, there are lots of cars you can move between, including a dining- and/or bar-car where you can eat and drink. Still, if that train is speeding along wildly, and there's no safe way to get off, then it is definitely a confined space. Such is the case for the few remaining passengers in a new film called LAST PASSENGER that opens today in Manhattan. When TrustMovies went just now to get his page of notes that he scribbles as he is watching each new film, he found that page completely blank -- except for the film's title at the top. What happened? So immediately swept up with the story and its execution was he, that he simply forgot to jot down a single sentence. Can there be a better recommendation for a genre movie than that?

Probably not, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I'll use my fading memory to tell you a bit about why the film works as well as it does -- without giving away spoilers. First off, Last Passenger is not a great film, for sure, and runaway trains are not anything we haven't seen previously. But that's perfectly OK because the movie doesn't need to be great -- just smart, fast and believable. So the co-writer (with Andrew Love and Kas Graham) and director, Omid Nooshin, manages just that, hooking us with some interesting characters with whom we're happy to travel.

These would include dad, a surgeon (played by Dougray Scott, shown below) and his cute son (Joshua Kaynama); a very attractive woman who has just boarded the train (Kara Tointon, at right); the conductor (Samuel Geker-Kawle); a busy businessman (David Schofield, two photos, below); an older woman (Lindsay Duncan), returning home with gifts for her grandkids; and a fellow with a foreign accent who may be up to no good (Iddo Goldberg, the stand-out performance in this very good cast).

That's pretty much it -- a few extras come and go -- and we're soon down to just half a dozen people for the remainder of the ride. Mr Nooshin does a fine job of handing us small talk and humor, while achieving a slight sense of uneasiness and eventually full-out dread. Suspense is built in two ways: first, what's happening; then second, why?

In stories like this one, some characters must be sacrificed, and Nooshin does a nice job of surprising us with the why and when. The film's most moving scene happens as there's a chance, due to his smaller size, for the young boy only to escape, which would mean his leaving his father. For reasons you will have already learned, this is more than problematic, and the movie manages these moments quite beautifully and surprisingly.

The cast is a very good one, with everyone in fine form, working together initially as adversaries but finally as friends. That we come to care for these people as much as we do, adds to both the suspense and our identification with the film. Nooshin keeps events tumbling over one another so there's little time to look for logic loopholes, and the actors are especially good at creating what looks like quite real behavior under circumstances that range from normal to not at all.

As I say, this is no great film, but if you're in the mood for a thriller these days, you could hardly do better than this. Last Passenger -- another good genre movie from Cohen Media Group (remember The Prey?) and running 97 minutes -- debuts today, Friday, April 25, in New York City at the Regal E-Walk theater.

Will the film play elsewhere theatrically? I've no idea, but it will most likely appear soon on DVD and maybe even via Netflix streaming. (You can stream The Prey there now, as a matter of fact, and if you haven't seen that little genre wonder, you should!)

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