Tony Scott’s Stoner Influence for “The Taking of Pelham 123”

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Tony Scott’s reworking of The Taking of Pelham 123 may not seem like what you’d call a “stoner movie,” but it certainly has influence rooted there, particularly in the opening scene that eventually sets up the war of wills between transit controller Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) and the criminal calling himself Ryder (John Travolta). Scott describes how he took elements from Koyaanisqatsi to inform his depiction of New York City.

“For me, the city is the third character in the movie and it’s the bad guy. John’s going to take revenge on the city like it took from him. It became a very important factor, which is why I opened the movie with that freneticism, that anxiety, which I stole from Koyaanisqatsi, which is a big old stoner movie from the 70s. That’s why we began with the city like that. I wanted to make the city a very strong character, and I think I handled and shot the city in a way it hasn’t been handled and shot before. It’s always about noise and people and anxiety. It’s a great contrast. For me, this movie has a brilliant canvas in terms of the bowels of the city of New York down in the subway system to the calmness and quietness of the almost NASA-like MTA control center. I had that luxury of being able to punctuate that adrenaline with the money car coming through the story when we needed it.”

Scott’s off by a couple years, since it came out in 1982, but you can watch Koyaanisqatsi in its entirety right here on Fancast, as well as the original 1974 version of The Taking of Pelham 123.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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