out of Five
Running time: 97
Pacily directed and smartly written, this is a pleasingly old-fashioned and nail-bitingly tense British train-based thriller with strong performances from its ensemble cast.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Omid Nooshin, Last Passenger stars Dougray Scott as dishy widowed doctor Lewis Shaler, who's escorting his seven year old son Max (Joshua Kaynama) home for Christmas on a late-night commuter train headed for Tunbridge Wells. As their train leaves
London, Lewis gets chatting to flirtatious fellow passenger Sarah (Kara Tointon), but their bantering comes to a sudden halt when they realise their train has hurtled through the supposed final destination and shows no sign of stopping.
Lewis, Sarah and Max quickly discover that there are only three other passengers on the entire train – grouchy businessman Peter (David Schofield), Polish smoking-ban violator Jan (Iddo Goldberg) and kindly grandmother Elaine (Lindsay Duncan) – so they set about working
together to try to figure out what's going on. However, as the train increases speed, they realise something is very, very wrong and that they will have to stop the train themselves if they want to survive.
Dougray Scott delivers one of his best lead performances as Lewis, displaying a cool head in an emergency that befits his status as a surgeon; he also has surprisingly strong chemistry with Kara Tointon, who's engaging and likeable as Sarah, even if the film largely ignores the romance angle once the plot kicks into gear. The supporting cast are equally good, particularly David Schofield (gruffly cynical) and Lindsay Duncan, though Iddo Goldberg's accent and delivery occasionally go a little over the top.
The script is pleasingly old-fashioned, evoking pleasant memories of classic British train-based thrillers such as Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. The production design helps out in this regard too, as the plot requires the train to be one of the old-style manual door-opening trains (complete with separate compartments) rather than the modern push-button door trains – basically, if you're something of a train nostalgist, then this is the film for you.
Nooshin maintains a suitably breakneck pace throughout, expertly building suspense and tension until the nail-biting finale. He also makes a virtue of what must have been an extremely low budget and achieves some surprisingly decent special effects.
Pleasingly old-fashioned and effectively tense, Last Passenger is a well acted, nicely paced picture that's something of a must-see for fans of train-based thrillers. Highly recommended.