The premise of a train hurtling down the track at over a hundred miles an hour, unable to be stopped, and holding innocent civilians scared for their life on board, is one that was only recently brought to life on the big screen, by the late Tony Scott with Unstoppable. However don’t let that put you off Omid Nooshin’s directorial debut Last Passenger, because despite sharing a similar concept, this intense thriller takes a somewhat more pragmatic approach, avoiding typical cinematic conventionalities, in turn for a film that gets inside our characters’ heads, and begs the question; what would you do?
When Lewis (Dougray Scott) and his young son Max (Joshua Kaynama) are heading back home on the train after a trip to London, they meet the affable stranger Sarah (Kara Tointon), also heading back to the suburbs. Though a natural chemistry is formed and the pair hit it off instantaneously, any potential romance is halted dramatically when it appears that the train isn’t stopping at any supposed destination – and when a group of passengers come together to try and work out what’s going on, they come to the conclusion that the brakes are not working. When they then discover that the guard is nowhere to be seen, they really start to panic.
Though somewhat lackadaisical to begin with, there’s an intensity to proceedings, as you know that inevitably something is going to go horribly wrong. Well, you at least hope so – otherwise this film will be pretty damn boring. So you start analysing all areas, and watching every character, looking out for any potential villains, while a couple of red herrings are thrown in for good measure, as Nooshin plays with our perceptions. His pacing is spot on too, in what is a well-structured production. The pensive build up merely enhances the impact of devastation caused later on, as it’s not until at least halfway through when the story really kicks into gear.
A palpable, natural chemistry between Scott and Tointon ensures the opening half remains compelling, as a series of impressive performances prevent this title from becoming drab. That said, the romantic narrative is somewhat superfluous, adding very little to this title, where there are already various other elements at play, not warranting its inclusion. However, Tointon – who made a name for herself in soap opera Eastenders – has taken really well to cinema, carrying a graceful screen presence. Scott has a much needed reassurance about his demeanour too, and it’s not only because his character is a doctor, but he has this air of authority to him, and you need that from your leading man, as he galvanizes those on board this runaway train. Each character is given a succinct, yet substantial introduction – as we are given just enough to learn about who they are and what they’re all about, so that when they become key characters later on when the final few passengers remain, we already know what to expect of their personalities.
Made on a modest budget, this is commendable filmmaking for Nooshin, as though on the surface this may appear to be a dramatic and outlandish thriller, it remains a tale you can relate to. We tend to all travel on trains, after all. However if you do go and see this picture, there’s a very strong chance you’ll opt for the bus home.