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June 14, 2022

Last Passenger

last passenger.jpg

Omid Nooshin - 2013
Cohen Media Group BD Region A

I like movies that take place on trains. This runs the gamut from The Lady Vanishes to Runaway Train to films that tangentially involve trains like Fritz Lang's Human Desire. The restriction of interior space combined with the restriction of movement by the train, usually but not always, moving forward on its tracks towards an already defined destination. There are also the literal tracking shots, often overhead shots, of the tracks. Thinking of the combination of the tracks and the trains can be appreciated as metaphorical story-telling or for its own visceral appeal.

Taking place during the winter holiday season, Dr. Lewis Shaler and seven year old son, Max, are on a commuter train traveling from London to their southeastern town. What seems like a routine journey becomes increasingly dramatic when, with only a handful of passengers left, the train moves rapidly forward, skipping the scheduled stops. The identity and motives of the rogue train operator remain unknown. Shaler, with the help of a couple of other passengers, attempts to stop the train before its seemingly inevitable crash.

Omid Nooshin's only feature was reportedly produced with an austere budget of 2.5 million dollars. What makes this worth noting is that the film looks it costs more. The running time is 96 minutes. Just those two elements should be a reminder that you do not need inflated budgets and running times to make a reasonably entertaining film - and Last Passenger is more than reasonably entertaining. Most of the action takes place on the train with a small cast. There are a few brief exterior shots. The exteriors, when viewed from inside the train are too blurry to be more than abstract shapes and shadows. Nooshin does make use of a judicious combination of CGI and practical effects, but they pass by so quickly that the viewer does not have the time to fully register what is being seen in the most dramatic moments other than bursts of sparks and flames. Some of the imagery is closer to a vague memory rather than a detailed evocation.

There is very little information on Omid Nooshin. He had one produced screenplay in 2016 as well as a couple of short films, and died in 2018 at the age of 43. Last Passenger was nominated for the British Independent Film Awards in the directorial debut category. The blu-ray comes with a suite of supplements that cover some of the technical aspects of the film including how a special rig was created to film within the confines of an actual train car. One of the other aspects I liked was that even though most of the film was shot inside train cars inside a studio, the train cars were constantly shifting just enough from side to side for a sense of verisimilitude.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 14, 2022 05:06 AM