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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Night Train (2009/NEM/E1 Blu-ray + DVD)

Night Train (2009/NEM/E1 Blu-ray + DVD)

 

Picture: B-/C†††† Sound: B-/C+†††† Extras: C†††† Film: B-

 

 

Mysteries are as little seen as Musicals were as Music Video seemed to make them seem old hat starting in the mid-1980s.M. Brian King has proven himself able to write a competent genre screenplay, as he did for Vincenzo (Cube, Paris, je Tíaime) Nataliís Cypher (2002, reviewed elsewhere on this site) a few years ago and makes his directing debut with Night Train (2009), a mystery thriller he wrote as well. At first, I was expecting only so much, though the cast includes Danny Glover as the train conductor plus Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski as passengers and strangers who suddenly get to know each other under unusual circumstances.

 

At issue is a solid old-looking wooden box that seems to hide some kind of jewelry treasure inside that a last-minute-on-the-train passenger has brought on.He seems to be very nervous and even being followed.When (SPOILER) he dies, the box lands up in the possession of the trio and they have no idea what is going on or who might be up to no good.What is so important?They donít know, but with death, pursuit and the objects unusual nature, they intend to hold onto it and sell itÖ if they live long enough to do so.

 

Though some of this may seem familiar (the box idea comes from the Film Noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, later redone in Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Pulp Fiction) and there are some conventions of genre here, but the big surprise is how good the acting and directing are, the editing is decent and the film is even competent enough to be suspenseful.I can see why the leads signed up and it is a great move on their part as this is bound to be discovered on Blu-ray and DVD.Sobieski has not been this good since Eyes Wide Shut and Glover can look at this as another clever turn like the one in Be Kind Rewind or Dreamgirls.Zahn is still on the rise as a great actor and I was glad to see him land this after being so wasted in the National Treasure films.

 

Shot on sets in Bulgaria, the film features an old-style train and since they did not have the budget Peter Hyams had for his underrated remake of Narrow Margin (1990, also reviewed on this site), they had to render the traveling in CGI digital.It may look like it is a few generations behind the train in Polar Express, yet it actually works to this filmís advantage by conjuring up the feel of the very 1930s detective films (including that of series like Charlie Chan) that even this is adds to the whole experience.

 

If you like Mysteries and think the comic British TV ones are good, yet you want to see other kinds, Night Train is worth going out of your way for.Sure, it has some problems, but it works far more often than not and that an independent production like this outdid a few hundred overproduced Hollywood A-movies on the same subject is a great thing to see.

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 image on the Blu-ray is offered is a little softer than expected, maybe in an attempt to be stylish, but this 35mm shot production should still be a bit clearer and sharper throughout than it is.The CGI is not bad, but all looks much softer on the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 DVD, though it is not a flaw in the transfer or format we can find.The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Blu-ray is better than the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in both formats and the DVD adds a Dolby 2.0 Stereo for simpler playback that is the weakest of the choices.

 

The surrounds do kick in at times, but this is dialogue-based and in all mixes seems to be a bit lower in volume than I would have liked it to be.The DTS is the easy sonic champ, but King may have been going for sound like a 1930s film.Good thing he did not go too monophonic, or it could have been like watching Pennies From Heaven.The combination is good, but slightly lacking at its best on Blu-ray and takes some minor adjusting.At least it is not harsh or shrill to its benefit.

 

Extras in both formats include trailer, photo gallery and a making of featurette, all of which should be enjoyed after you see the film.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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