Review: Thrilling 'Last Passenger' charges hard on low budget

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.

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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.

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