When a gang of four armed men in matching disguises — known only as Blue (Robert Shaw), Grey (Héctor Elizondo), Green (Martin Balsam), and Brown (Earl Hindman) — hijack a New York City subway train, they round up seventeen passengers and put them into one subway car before separating it from the rest of the train. Blue gets in touch with Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau), a police Lieutenant with the transit authority, and demands a million dollar ransom to be paid within an hour. If an hour passes and they don’t get their money, they will kill one passenger for each minute they are late with the money.
The mayor of New York is hesitant to pay the ransom at first, but eventually agrees. While the money is being gathered, Garber and Lieutenant Rico Patrone (Jerry Stiller) work in the control room to keep the situation under control and try to figure out who the gunmen are. Garber figures that since one of them clearly knows how to operate the subway train, at least one of them might be a disgruntled former transit employee so they get to work finding a list of dismissed transit employees.
Police officers manage to get the money delivered in time, but the ordeal is only just beginning for the hostages. When the gunmen get the train moving again, they get off and leave the hostages trapped on a train barreling through the subway system at 70 miles per hour. Tensions also start to get to the gunmen and when it’s all over, only one of them makes it out alive.
Simply put, The Taking of the Pelham One Two Three is a must-see movie for anyone who enjoys a good suspense film. It easily ranks as one of the best thrillers I’ve ever seen. From beginning to end, it’s filled with action and tension that leaves you on the edge of your seat. The pacing is perfect; there isn’t a single dull moment to be seen here. Everybody in it is perfectly cast. It’s just marvelous. Believe me, you do not want to miss The Taking of the Pelham One Two Three. It does everything a good suspense film is supposed to do.