A small group of passengers on a late commuter train begin to realise something is wrong when it starts running straight through every station without stopping. Things soon get worse when the guard disappears and the driver refuses to speak to them. With the train accelerating and the emergency brakes disabled, it’s only a matter of time before they reach the end of the line.
The DVD cover art seems to be trying to sell Last Passenger as a relentless train-based action film in the vein of Unstoppable or The Taking of Pelham 123. While certainly a thriller, it’s more geared towards tension than action. Indeed, the first half hour or so is relatively uneventful, with an obnoxious passenger refusing to put out a cigarette the closest to action it actually gets. Most of that time is spent on passengers Lewis, who is travelling with his young son Max, and Sarah, who immediately charms both of them. The pair are flirty with one another in a way that comes off as completely natural; instead of a forced attraction, they’re just two people making an instant connection.
It’s only when they realise that the train isn’t going to stop that the tension swiftly begins to build. Most thrillers have at least some degree of respite between action sequences, but Last Passenger is relentless. The passengers are trapped in the train without any way to escape or summon help, meaning that not a single moment goes by without the constant reminder that their speeding prison could very well soon become their tomb. We get some suggestions of why the driver is racing them all to their deaths, but the lack of confirmation, or indeed any kind of communication from him, gives him a sinister lack of humanity that is never tempered.
As well as the constant apprehension, the character interaction keeps the film interesting. Lewis often gets frustrated with Max’s inability to do as he is told, but his obvious fear for his son overcomes any possible accusations of being unreasonable, while his determination to get him to safety is doubtless the same feeling any parent would have in the same situation. To figure out a way of escape, the passengers end up pooling their fragmentary knowledge and physical capabilities, some of them such as the aforementioned smoker and an officious stickler for rules being required to first overcome their initial hostility to one another.
Although the single setting of the train could be written off as a cost saving exercise, it nevertheless also efficiently conveys a feeling of claustrophobia. Similarly themed films usually have separate scenes of the police making several unsuccessful attempts to avert catastrophe, but denying us any glimpse of the world outside the train traps us as effectively as the passengers have been.
Overall Verdict: Straightforward yet gripping, Last Passenger takes its time to begin speeding up, but once it does it never ceases accelerating towards an intense climax.
Reviewer: Andrew Marshall