Film Review : Metro / Metpo

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The mass crowd train sections are superbly done

Russia doesn’t have a history of big budget disaster movies so 2013’s Metpo (Metro or Subwave it’s been translated to depending where in the globe you are) is something of a wonderful anomaly. Harking back to the 70’s and 90’s disaster movies, this is a wonderful addition to the genre that is equal parts exciting and ham – showing Russian directorial stances for all to see.

Released : 2013

Running Time : 2 hrs 13 mins

The Premise

An old Russian underground subway tunnel collapses and traps a rush hour train under it. As water pours in from the river, the survivors must escape the tunnel – but also half the time each other, and various botched rescue attempts.

The Disasters Faced

A tunnel collapse, waves, runaway trains, rats, the worlds worst asthma sufferer of all time, mobile phone signals, the constant issue of slow motion action shots to post-rock soundtracks and finding an English subtitled version!

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You may not be sympathetic to Vlad, but he is great at getting out of a tough situation

The Execution

Firstly, this Russian film is at present, not available in English subtitles (as of Aug 2017). My copy is French, and whilst my GCSE French was enough to get by and understand the story and basic dialogue, some of the more subtle points will probably have been lost on me. However, it says a lot that I still absolutely enjoyed myself with in spite of this language barrier. The main focus is on a love triangle where Irina is having an affair with Vlad and whilst her husband Andrei suspects something is up, both men end up on the trapped subway with daughter Alisa. There’s also a young romance couple, a dog and two comic relief characters that round-up the main cast. Whilst the first half is focused mainly on the disaster, the second half is focused just as much on the unravelling plot where Vlad and Andrei discover who they are to each other. Whilst I felt like it dominated a little too much screen time between the set pieces and left not enough time on the rest of the cast, it does make for some awkward situations. However, the acting is strong, the action well cut and there’s just enough emotion throughout to stop it veering towards a farce. The film also does its best to not reprise Daylight from 1997. There’s some parallels and the film actively follows the same escape plot at times (trying to escape out a drain) – but it is at its best when it veers away from the trodden path.

The Effects

Firstly, the water effects are great. The submerged tunnel is great and the initial accident is superb. Cultural directorial choices are fascinating when watching disaster movies from other parts of the world and here the chopped up mix of slow motion and full speed action is the style. There’s also an awful lot of post rock music to accompany some of the set pieces. The train itself is destroyed perfectly and there’s plenty of scenes which feature mass crowds and panic. Very well done.

Why It’s Worth Watching

The first hour is absolutely tense. The action is really well done, gritty and full of drama. The level of realism of a post train crash is a labour of work to behold. Elsewhere the water and wave set pieces are also excellent too. You can feel and see the budget. The acting in general is superb, whilst featuring some very dramatic quick cuts of lots of brooding faces, or women collapsing and crying – in some ways it reminds me of the outpouring of emotions you see in some of the Asian disaster movies (notably Haeundae). I’ve read that there are quite a few nods to Russian culture and its failings, but I must say they passed me by as I was busy cheering everyone on.

Drinking Game

Irina has so many slow motion moments. Some of them she walks. Some she runs. Some she cries. She’s not even in the tunnel. Get a grip darling.

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Stunts and water effects are well made, with effective editing

Weirdest Moment

For me there was two. Firstly, the music score is partly post rock drama, and partly soft core porno – and it flicks between them from scene to scene. Nothing says “this feels wrong” more than a sexy uptempo pop jazz number as the camera pans over dead bodies. The second one is a spoiler. A certain character dies when the train runs him down – but the death just seemed so utterly avoidable and silly – and the character just gives up in the end. A shame.

Favourite Character

Aside from the dog, who was cute and sassy, the alcoholic Galochka is one of the best comic relief characters in a disaster movie in recent years. She just seemed generally happy-go-lucky despite being down and out too.

Random Trivia

After Russia, China was the other place where this film was shown in cinemas widely and made a few million there, but its been snubbed release so far in any English-speaking countries.

Conclusion

Slow motion crying antics aside, this is a very good disaster movie. If the language barriers aren’t a problem for you, or you can find an English subtitle/sub in the future – pick this up if you’re a disaster movie fan. It’s a good one – and do a back to back with Daylight or 252 Sign for Life.

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