Compared to "Speed" or "Unstoppable" or other pricey studio thrillers about runaway public vehicles, the lower-budgeted "Last Passenger" may feel a tad modest for the high-octane crowd. However, taken on its own terms, this handsomely made suspense yarn proves an engrossing, pulse-quickening journey that deserves a wider local release than it's receiving.
Set on a "slam-door" train (versus newer vehicles fitted with purportedly safer automatic doors), this compact picture finds half a dozen late-night riders stranded on a London commuter train whose brakes have been sabotaged. Once these passengers — including a widowed doctor (Dougray Scott), his young son (Joshua Kaynama), a flirty event planner (Kara Tointon) and a hotheaded Polish immigrant (Iddo Goldberg) — realize the locomotive is hurtling out of control (at 100 miles per hour, no less), they must band together to stop the train before its inevitable crash.
Rounding out the unnerved sextet are a kindly grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) and a surly businessman (David Schofield).
The film is impressively directed by Omid Nooshin, who co-wrote with Andy Love. Although the film, Nooshin's first feature, takes a while to become fully propulsive, it eventually puts forth an effective series of red herrings, close calls and clock-ticking action scenes. That certain situational elements remain a mystery ultimately enhances the narrative.
Scott makes for a sturdy hero, though his character is — and this is a plus — more thinking man than macho bruiser. Goldberg is also compelling as a deceptively resourceful tough guy.
Also noteworthy: the excellent nighttime lensing by Angus Hudson and the urgent, evocative score by Liam Bates.
"Last Passenger." MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. At Edwards Long Beach Stadium 26.