Runaway Train: Nooshin’s Banal Debut Goes Wrong Way on a One Way Track
What promises to be a nimble, low budget whodunit aboard a high speed train, forcing a small band of disparate passengers to work together for their own well-being, devolves quickly into a stodgy exercise of wanton blandness in Omid Nooshin’s debut, Last Passenger. Arriving in US theaters after initial foreign DVD releases (and finally a theatrical bow in native UK last Fall), it’s anyone’s guess as to what the impetus was behind granting succor to this tasteless cinematic offering by releasing it in an already oversaturated market.
On the last train coming out of London, hard pressed doctor and single dad Lewis Shaler (Dougray Scott) is trying to head home for the Christmas season with his young son, Max. But a patient emergency means a slight detour for the pair. Luckily, Lewis and son strike up a conversation with a comely blonde stranger, Sarah (Kara Tointon), who seems to be as single as she is flirtatious. As they canoodle, minor drama ensues over a fellow passenger smoking on the train. Suddenly, everyone notes that the guard has disappeared and that the train has neglected to make any more stops, only hurtling forward at breakneck speed. It seems a madman has assumed control of the train and intends to crash it, or so we suppose because no one knows who is at the helm or why they would do such a thing. But the last six passengers aboard the train begin to prepare for the worst.
Star Dougray Scott, who was briefly a substantial presence over a decade ago due to stints in mainstream US fodder like Mission Impossible 2 and Ever After, gets saddled with the craggy lead here as a physician who can tell exactly what’s ailing you by just an observational glance. No joke. He diagnoses love interest Kara Tointon’s heart murmur by staring deeply into her eyes.
Filled with ridiculous instances that we assume will eventually add up to something but never do, Last Passenger reaches a crescendo early on, when we learn that, for unknown reasons, someone has hijacked the train and won’t make any stops. The rest amounts to nothing more than inane squabbling, which manages to either completely waste the talents of Lindsay Duncan or cause extreme irritation by forcing Israeli born Iddo Goldberg to use a ridiculous Eastern European accent to laughable extremes. Then there’s that half assed romance that takes up the majority of the first half and without relevant pay off. In fact, all of the characteristics for every character seem like thinly realized false non-sequiturs, with Nooshin’s cast performing as if they’re part of ensemble drama rather than a mystery thriller.
Likewise, by the time we get to the grand finale, it’s unclear what was of vested interest for any parties to be involved in this at all. Isolated transportation narratives can sometimes be entertaining potboilers, and while Last Passenger may not have had a similar budget, it makes something like the Liam Neeson thriller Non Stop seem ingenious by comparison. Completely unremarkable and pedestrian in every sense, a speeding train hurtling toward an impending doom has never seemed so dull.