Ah, the ride from hell. It’s a device used in countless thriller films, and if done right, it can take you on a hell of a trip. It’s especially interesting when it’s confined to a small area, such as Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs, which takes place mostly in a stuffy, claustrophobic car. Such is the case in Edward Anderson’s Shuttle, which for a good 75% of the runtime is confined to a shuttle bus. While it may not be a classic, Shuttle hits just enough of the right notes to indeed take you on one hell of a ride.
Mel and Jules have just returned from a trip to Mexico, and after dealing with lost luggage and being hit on by a couple of guys in the airport, all they’re worried about is getting back home. When offered a shuttle ride at half-off the running rate, they jump at the chance, as do the two guys they met earlier. Along with one other passenger, they soon discover that the driver doesn’t exactly know where he’s going. After being nearly run off the road by a speeding motorist in a bad part of the city, they get a flat. Things go from bad to worse when the jack gives way and one of the male passenger’s fingers are cut off when the wheel well crashes down on his hand. The driver races to the hospital, but again appears to be lost. Pulling over, he takes out an atlas and produces a gun from inside. Turns out he’s not a shuttle driver at all, and has some sinister plans for all aboard.
While Edward Anderson doesn’t reinvent the wheel with Shuttle, he does have a firm grasp on what makes these types of films successful, and uses that knowledge to create a very entertaining thrill-ride. The passengers have a nice mix of characteristics, making them all stand out from one another, including the prick, the bitch, the good-hearted, and the cowardly. Like all good thrillers, there’s always one character that you hope gets it, even though he’s an innocent. That very person is indeed along for the ride, but Anderson turns the tables and things don’t go down as you would have originally expected. It's a very good way to toss another monkey wrench into the works, and it's something that I didn’t see coming. Even if you guess it, it occurs halfway through the runtime, so it’s far from the last thing you’ll remember when walking away from the film. Anderson also does a wonderful job of framing shots on the bus, as while it’s not a super small area, most of the passengers are generally very close to each other, making for a great claustrophobic atmosphere.
I’ve seen some reviews and comments about the film where people complain about the actions of the hostages on the bus. They say that they were all given ample opportunities to escape, and since they didn’t take the chances, the film suffers because of it. I’d have to wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment. For one thing, no one can ever say how someone would react in a situation like that, and the majority of experts will tell you not to lash out and go along with everything the person tells you to do if you want to survive the ordeal. As the situation worsens and things begin to look increasingly grim, I can then understand attempting to take matters into your own hands, but the entirety of Shuttle takes place in the course of a few hours. These people also seem to forget that they’re watching a film; you know, fantasy. If everyone had the intelligence of Einstein and found a way out within 20 minutes of being held captive, we wouldn’t have much of a movie, now would we?
Whereas this facet of the film didn’t bother me like it did others, I did have a handful of gripes. First off, the shuttle ride is supposedly taking place through a city, and one of the characters mentions it’s not a very safe area. So why then do we only see one other car on the road and not one pedestrian throughout the entire film? It really doesn’t matter that it’s 3 in the morning; I’ve been in the city at 3 in the morning, and I’ve driven through an area that isn’t known to be the most safe, and there’s always cars on the road and people walking the sidewalk. In the city this group is stuck driving through, the only thing it looks like they should be scared of is ghosts. I also saw a couple instances of bad editing, one in particular being when Mel is attempting to hail a bus for a ride home early in the film. It’s pouring rain, and she’s absolutely drenched. When she and Jules make the decision to take the cheaper bus and get on, Mel is miraculously only slightly damp. Moments like these are a pet-peeve of mine, as they can totally pull you out of the world of the film. Lastly, during the final minutes of the movie, someone is shot in what appears to be the neck. Yet a minute later, that person is back in action and seemingly fine to continue on about their business without much difficulty breathing. Maybe I saw the scene wrong and the bullet hit somewhere else, but regardless, it isn’t clear and I guarantee this moment will ruin the film for some, and is the sole reason why I personally can’t rate the film any higher than I have.
If you’re like me though, and don’t let the grievous decision of literally bringing someone back from the dead affect you too much (and can give a pass for dumb characters), there’s a hell of a lot of good stuff going on in Shuttle. It’s a suspenseful film with some very good twists and turns that will keep you on your toes. When all is said and done, you’ll probably walk away feeling like crap, but the masochist in me enjoys things like that from time to time. If that’s not a recommendation to hop aboard this bus, I don’t know what is!
Shuttle hits DVD thanks to Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing. The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks really good. The film has a drab look to it, which fits the mood nicely. I didn’t notice any flaws in the print or transfer. The audio is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, and the 5.1 track is really impressive. The sound design is very nice, with many instances of ambient background noises to add to the tension of the onscreen actions. All of the dialogue is clear and easy to pick up.
Extras on the disc include a short 5 minute making of, with interviews from a couple of cast and crew members. It’s not very informative and I think it might just be a reused EPK. 23 minutes of casting sessions are included with all six of the main cast, and it’s interesting to watch if you’re into seeing what is required to score a role in a film. The disc is rounded out with a 5 minutes of deleted scenes, none of which are particularly interesting, and the film’s original trailer.
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