Title: Last Passenger
Director: Omid Nooshin
Starring: Dougray Scott, Kara Tointon, Iddo Goldberg, David Schofield, Joshua Kaynama, Lindsay Duncan
Ahh, what might have been for Dougray Scott. In the late 1990s, he was originally cast as adamantium-clawed “X-Men” mauler Wolverine, but then forced to drop out of the film when overruns and delays dragged out the production schedule of “Mission: Impossible II.” Stripped of that franchise touchstone, he’s never quite reached the same buzzy occupational heights. Now, while Hugh Jackman has gone on to all sorts of riches and rewards, the Scottish-born Scott is left to anchor British-produced rip-offs of “Speed,” as with “Last Passenger,” a runaway-train action thriller that coasts along serviceably for a while before entering Boredom Station.
The story here centers on Lewis Shaler (Scott), an overworked doctor and widower who’s traveling the Hastings line with his seven-year-old son Max (Joshua Kaynama) one December evening. Amidst catnaps, he meets cute and shares a bit of adult flirtation with Sarah Barwell (Kara Tointon), a recently uncoupled young professional. When Lewis comes to, the train’s guard/ticket-taker has vanished, its doors are locked and it seems someone has cut the brake lines. As circumstances become more dire for Lewis, Sarah, Max and the remaining passengers — including would-be magician Jan Klimowski (Iddo Goldberg) and Peter Carmichael (David Schofield), a somewhat dour pensioner — they come to the conclusion that they’re unwitting add-ons for a sociopath’s end-of-line suicide mission. The remaining question, then, is of course what they can do about it, if anything.
Co-written by Andrew Love and director Omid Nooshin, “Last Passenger” has a terminal end point (pun embraced more than intended); unless its cars sprout wings, we know this train is going to be stopped, derailed or achieve fiery finality at the last station. We also know the less cinematic ways for this situation to resolve itself, which tells us a lot about how things will unfold.
So this is a movie, really, that lives and dies, even more than usual, with its characters. And unfortunately, “Last Passenger” doesn’t quite fully dig down into the psychological nutmeat of its imperiled players, who remain mostly just at-odds types – aside from Sarah, which completely wastes Tointon in a role that might as well be called The Pretty Girl. There’s the requisite bickering about courses of action, naturally, but Nooshin and Love miss out on a chance to really plumb the madness of a scenario like this — to have characters argue and fight, cut one another off and pursue wildly different agendas. Occasionally, early on, there’s mention of an offscreen action or two, which is clearly meant to pump up the movie’s mystery: did this person really do that, or are they lying? In short order, though, “Last Passenger” fritters away this tension, opting instead for an all-for-one-and-one-for-all fight against time, as embodied by this faceless lunatic.
Composer Liam Bates’ pounding score reaches for adrenalized identification, but the stunts here are mostly of the small-fries variety. They’re decently executed, but contain no great cathartic charge, handcuffed as they are by the set’s contained quarters and drab presentation. Then there’s the fact, too, that there isn’t much communication with the sealed-off throttle-pusher (rogue captain or interloper, it matters not), which seems an attempt to thread a narrative needle too finely. After the heavy hints of one character’s swallowed life regrets, the film’s refusal to yield to an additional end twist will strike viewers as perhaps one-quarter a small, pleasant surprise and three-quarters frustrating bafflement. Either way, there’s just not enough absorbing, character-based intrigue to elicit sustained investment in this tossed-off take on what could be an interestingly rendered concept.
NOTE: “Last Passenger” opens in the Los Angeles area at the Regal Long Beach Stadium Theatre.
Written by: Brent Simon