The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Taking of Pelham One Two Three</strong> (1974)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) Knowing that it was coming from the middle of the bleak 1970s, a time when “urban” was always followed by “decay”, I was frankly expecting the worst from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. How could a movie depicting a hostage taking in the NYC subway be anything but bleak and depressing? Fortunately, this isn’t quite the case: While the film is a slow-burn thriller, it’s not entirely bleak and can even be surprisingly engaging at times. Walter Matthau stars as the city official trying to piece together the elements of a criminal plan before they come to fruition, and the choice of giving this heroic role to an actor like him is indicative of a playful oddball sensitivity that runs through the movie: the characters have colds, are interrupted by visiting Japanese visitors, and one of the hostages stays asleep through much of the excitement. Thanks to director Joseph Sargent, 1970s New York City in this film is grimy but not always bleak and after a relatively tepid first half, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three gets going toward the end with a few good sequences. The musical theme is interesting and complements the interesting period piece atmosphere. I’m always fond of techno-thrillers, and the detail through which the film explains the minutiae of the NYC subway system is absolutely fascinating. In a few words, I had a great time with The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and it’s definitely worth watching today even if you’re familiar with its vastly less remarkable remake.

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