aka Death Train from the novel by Alistair MacLean.
While this may be a film that shows it’s made for cable roots at a time when these films were considered second tier, it does present us with the chance to see three extremely well known actors share the screen. Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart and Christopher Lee. A pretty good trifecta.
One could almost say that Pierce was in training here as it wouldn’t be long before he assumed the role of James Bond, giving him everlasting fame for our day and age. He’s playing and agent of sorts who works under the command of Patrick Stewart who heads up the United Nations’ Anti Crime Organization.
It seems that a train has been hijacked by Ted Levine in Europe and unbeknownst to the general public has a nuclear bomb aboard thanks to a Russian General who wants to restore the balance of world wide power and revive the forces of the Soviet Union. Speaking Russian in many of his on screen scenes is Christopher Lee as our renegade General.
“We’re in a state of martial law and I’m the martial!” says Stewart to those at headquaters who challenge his authority over seeing justice done and calling the shots as he joins Pierce with Alexandra Paul to head up a rescue mission. Joining these two injects a slight bit of the classic “battle of the sexes” routines as Pierce assumes he’s far better at most anything then Alexandra is. He’ll soon see that she can hold here own in the heat of battle.
While this may be a cable TV production, that didn’t stop the budget from getting a real train and helicopter to bring a reality to the proceedings that wouldn’t have worked as well if it was all studio bound with projections shots. There are plenty of fire fights here to keep the action moving as Pierce and company continually attempt to keep the train from it’s final destination in the middle east.
While Pierce is doing his best on the outside, Stewart is in constant contact with the crazed Levine trying to talk him down. Not easy to do when Levine’s character blatantly kills hostages and dumps them off the train with every transgression. Like many on screen villains, his ego will get the best of him leading to a more than satisfying comeuppance for us viewers.
Though Chris Lee would go on to act for what seems to have been an eternity, he’s not as spry here as he once was when he essayed the part of Scaramanga, so much of his role is in the background of the action sequences, issuing orders and plotting before his time comes to pay the ultimate debt. I’m not sure why I hear so much about the death scenes of Sean Bean when it is surely Mr. Lee who holds the acclaim of playing more death scenes then any other actor.
Writer MacLean whose name is attached to the film had enjoyed a succession of his novels being transferred to to the screen quite often in the sixties and seventies. Titles like The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and Breakheart Pass come to mind. So while this thriller from director David Jackson might be watchable, it can’t be spoken of in the same big screen conversations as these other “A” budget productions.
There was a follow up to this feature in 1995 with Pierce, Alexandra and William Devane stepping into the Stewart role. It allotted Pierce the opportunity to go with the shaggy dog look utilizing the Buffalo Bill Cody make up kit.
An easy addition to my library of titles mainly thanks to the participation of Lee. Stewart and Brosnan just a little extra icing on the cake.