The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

Ever have a bad day at work? Your boss riding you like an ass, your coworkers are a dick, and then just to top it all off, a crazy psychopath comes in and takes some hostages; you know, the ultimate in sucky days. No? Hmmm… your name must not be Walter Garber then, the protagonist of this 2009 psychological action thriller. But hey, we all can’t be fictional characters.

So yeah, Garber is a train dispatcher. He makes sure all the trains go about their business well. That they don’t crash and kill hordes of people, you know, the works. Well, usually the works until a maniac hijacks one of your trains and demands ten million dollars in exchange for the hostage’s lives. The fact that you have no experience as a negotiator doesn’t help either, neither does the tiny tid-bit that you are under investigation for bribery. But hey- when a deluded ex-con wants to talk personally to you, what can you say but yeah? Not much, that is for sure since the criminal wants the money in an hour before he starts killing people.

Simple plot. Short, to the point, and filled with intriguing characters, witty dialogue, and crazy moments. To be honest one of my favorite things about this movie was how effectively it conveyed the sense of irrationality abounding in the city: you are an ordinary dude, you wake up, put on your socks, go to work, then are thrown into an absurd situation which you have no training for and are expected to swim or die. Yet against all odds you somehow make it and what do you do after wards? What do you do after performing crazy stunts, acting as an intermediate, kill a man, meet the mayor, and are cleared of your accusations? Some would take a helicopter ride home but no, if you are Garber then you take the subway; I, personally, would be super paranoid about taking the subway after the day I had… but I am not Walter Garber. You take the subway, stop at the store for a gallon of milk, and then return home to your wife to presumably talk about the slightly abnormal day you endured.

A sense of irrationality pervades the movie in this regard. Lines aimed at reinforcing the average cycle of events collide with abnormal reminders that some days are not normal yet, in the end, you can only take things one day at a time. This is what I meant by irrationality: the plot oscillates very well between high drama followed by typical routines. None of it feels forced. On the contrary everything feels very natural. Though I do not dwell in the city (and won’t anytime soon) I can say that even if you are a country-slicker then you can enjoy how the movie nudges you to remember that life has it boring days but also its significant.

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