Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ffolkes / One Two Three - The Taking of Pelham / Juggernaut

You will usually see only the fringe players in such films - character actors, actors who promise to become stars one day and never become, and some who just keep getting in and out of the film world itself. And yet, they somehow grip you. The dialogues are few, the music is impeccably paced, there's always a material image which looms larger than any of the characters (an oil rig, a train, a ship), there are always some, very brief snippets of the inactive characters in the film (I mean the passengers of the ship, of the train, the crew of the rig), and underlying everything is the tension, the all-pervading, sweaty tension. Someone is silently making ransom calls, someone is receiving them frantically, silently the calls are tapped and silently the heat and tension grows. The simplest solution - give the ransom. And yet, there's that thing of giving in to terror - and so, against time, plots are planned with mathematical precision, crazy experts are called for (whom nobody, even those who are seeking their help, likes), and the film is mounted onto a slow boil.
The amazing thing is that there's not any usual suspense in the film. Nobody wants to know who the person demanding ransom is and why is he or she doing it, nobody wants to know who will die and who will not, and yet there's a grip - although we all know that the ship or train with hundreds of people or the oil rig with crores of rupees will be saved at the end and we even know the general outline of the film in advance, somehow we remain in thrall of how exactly does this go now. The crispness and the dry satire of the dialogues in such film helps, and if the location is Britain, then be assured to get some vintage Britishness.
And, such films never do really well at the box office. People like dashers who can jump from speeding yachts and trains with nonchalance and lay stylish women at the same time in bed, and not the actual, efficient, superskilled and genius experts.

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