Saw this as a preview at Pinewood Studios recently and was caught by surprise at how accomplished it is as a first movie. Director and co- screenwriter, Omid Nooshin has crafted an intelligent and genuinely suspenseful take on a (to be fair) not-so-original idea – the runaway train.
Populated by believable characters, the train journey gets underway and a clever introduction of the various relationships ensues. The number of passengers on board dwindles to an eclectic few, seemingly in real time, before this familiar and very British late train to Kent is invaded by the plot of a Hollywood Blockbuster. And this merger is the heart and soul of the piece – a 'what if?' scenario that sneaks out of nowhere, pulling the rug on what you thought you were watching.
If I had to level any major criticism it would be that the films ultimate ambitions are occasionally betrayed by its lack of budget, but don't let that put you off – a number of creative decisions were probably based around what couldn't be afforded and, in my opinion, are improved by the inability to throw lavish visual effects at the screen. What we are left with is a taut, claustrophobic thriller that's hard to second guess.
The film makers influences are easy to spot, the 'Dual' like scenario and the rattling interplay between a collection of disparate ('Jaws'- like) characters screams early Spielberg, whilst the slow build of simmering tension, as the reality of the situation takes hold, evokes the sensibilities of Hitchcock, as does the Herrmann-esque score. The setting doesn't stray from the confines of the train, which in a way becomes a character itself, although thankfully it never feels too static, nor becomes stale. This is a thriller that takes its time to present a credible realism – all the better so that when the brief flashes of chaos and action do erupt we are invested in the characters lives and the predicament they face becomes a life threatening battle for survival with, only too real, motive and consequence.
To reveal the details of some of the emotionally charged scenes would be remiss, save to say that Dougray Scott turns in a performance of restrained gravitas that recalls the promise of his earlier work. In fact the cast seem uniformly intent on selling the danger and urgency of the piece.
All in all, I found Last Passenger to be a thoroughly entertaining film that I'll be seeking out again when it's released on the big screen in the UK.