The cinema has never stopped talking about train journeys since January 1896, when the Lumières screened their film “The arrival of a train at La Ciotat station” in front of a speechless audience. And that makes sense because, after all, both the occupants of a car and the spectators of a film are both still and in motion, seated but also literally or figuratively moving. On the occasion of the premiere this Friday of ‘Bullet train’, the ‘actioner’ with Brad Pitt which promises to become a summer blockbuster, we review some of the fictions which have made it possible to better understand how important this means romantic transport is beautiful on screen.
‘The Driver of La General’ (1926)
Buster Keaton was a pioneer in putting his physical integrity on the line for his art, and in no other film has he done so with such dedication as in this one. In the shoes of a train driver who must save his locomotive and the woman he loves from enemy hands, he first hunts down the bad guys on foot, by bicycle and with another locomotive; then, after an exchange of trains, the pursuit continues in the opposite direction. The result is one of the best train movies, one of the best action movies, and one of the best silent movies. One of the best, period. Available in Filmine.
‘Alarm on the Express’ (1938)
Alfred Hitchcock knew better than anyone that a train journey takes us away from our everyday reality and therefore invites us to take on different identities. At least half a dozen of his films use railroads to generate intrigue, suspense and danger. In ‘Alarm on the Express’, for example, the search for an elderly woman who disappeared while traveling on the Transcontinental Express is solved by the discovery of a spy ring. And in “Strangers on a Train” (1951), two strangers agree on board a train car: each will kill a person the other wants to see die. Available in Filmine.
Part spectacular action movie, part gripping spy plot and part interesting reflection on what art is worth sacrificing, it confronts a Nazi Colonel trying to steal a shipment of paintings across the railway line that connects France to Germany and the resistant who tries to stop it. How? To do everything to prevent the train from leaving the Gallic lands or, in other words, to play the main role in a series of sequences of action and destruction which even today are capable of arousing both the admiration and astonishment. Available in Filmine.
“Murder on the Orient Express” (1974)
It contains all the essential ingredients of Agatha Christie’s novels and their film adaptations: a murder, a unique and oppressive setting – the carriages of a train traveling between Istanbul and Calais -, a closed circle of suspects loaded with mobiles and of secrets.-Lauren Baccall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Jaqcqueline Bisset and Anthony Perkins, among others-, and a detective -Hercule Poirot, narcissistic and maniacal investigator- who, of course, finally discovers the culprit. The book it’s based on was made into a movie again in 2017, to much less success. Available in Filmine.
“Cassandra’s Bridge” (1976)
This particularly bizarre exponent of disaster cinema sees a group of passengers who, while traveling on a luxury train, become infected with a deadly virus carried by terrorists. The film features an all-star cast led by Richard Harris and Sophia Loren, both of whom overreact like there’s no tomorrow. Burt Lancaster, on the other hand, plays a military man who wants to throw the train over a dilapidated bridge so that all its occupants die, because he thinks such a tragedy will give terrorists a bad name. A perfect project. Available in Filmine.
“The Train From Hell” (1985)
Based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, it could be defined as a railway version of ‘Speed’ (1994); after all, it features two fugitives trapped on a train speeding through Alaska, only to spiral out of control as soon as its driver dies of a heart attack. It bears similarities to “Unstoppable” (2010), a fast-paced story about a train full of toxic chemicals and the two men who must try to stop it to avoid possible environmental devastation. Both films go wild and the energy they release in their wake is overwhelming. Available on Filmin (‘Unstoppable’, on Disney+).
“Journey to Darjeeling” (2007)
As he watches three American brothers cross India to reconnect and reunite, Wes Anderson encapsulates the essence of an entire country in the incredibly detailed interior of the train the trio travels on, and which perfectly conveys the metaphor of the movie: since in this life we all travel on roads that lead us to death, why don’t we stop wasting our energy carrying all the baggage that crushes us and instead we use it to sympathize with our traveling companions? Available on Disney+.
Something like the result of mixing the plots of ‘Trapped in Time’ (1993), ’12 Monkeys’ (1995), ‘The Messenger of Fear’ (1962) and ‘Déjà Vu’ (2006) and enclosing the resulting story in a commuter train car whose nooks and crannies hide the pieces of a sophisticated mystery: a succession of 8-minute time travels, an exploding bomb, a villain who wants to destroy the world. In the center, a man who must face his own mortality; In the process, you will learn that every second of the journey counts, and that with each new stage of the journey we are wiser than the last. Available on Movistar Plus+.
After an environmental cataclysm leaves the planet frozen and uninhabitable, the last living humans remain aboard a high-speed train that circles nonstop and no one can get out. The vehicle is divided by class: while the poor crowd in the back, in the front the rich cars have hairdressers, schools and nightclubs. And when the poor decide to go forward to make the revolution, it is tempting to hope that they will not succeed. In a train journey, as in a good film, the best is not the destination but the journey itself. Available on Prime Video.
As he watches the class tensions brewing among the ragtag crew of humans sharing a high-speed transport with a horde of bloodthirsty zombies, he moves as fast as the title vehicle and never never engage the brake lever. . Meanwhile, this not only generates tension due to the claustrophobia the characters experience as they fight for survival; it also makes incredibly creative use of the cars internal geography, and in particular things like door locks, shatterproof windows and luggage racks. Available on Acontra+, Filmin and Prime Video.