Someone famous once rightly said, “Why let things like story, plot and character development come in the way of a good movie?” Oh wait, I think that was me… ahem *clears throat*. But leaving the famous part apart, that quote is almost always true for genres like thrillers and comedy, where the movie depends not so much on the originality of its plot, but on how well it’s told. David Koepp’s Premium Rush is exactly that kind of a movie.
Essentially about an adrenaline-pumping chase through the streets of New York, most of which takes place in real time, Premium Rush is one of those crackling and ridiculously fun movies that constantly surprise you with how engaging they are. Straddling a fine space between action and thriller, the movie’s genius lies purely in the idea of using bikes (or ‘cycles’, as we call them in India) as the carrier of hip (pun not intended) — a vehicle that has largely been ignored by Hollywood, except, maybe, for the iconic scenes of ET.
In a sense, the movie’s an ode to the art of cycling, and a nod to the great and audacious work of Manhattan’s ‘bike messengers’, couriers who risk their all to deliver things from one corner of the city to the other in the shortest possible time, when it’s impossible to do it any other way. It’s also a nod to, well, how hot these messengers are (Dania Ramirez is droolworthy), and how that’s only natural, given that if you put a Nitin Gadkari on a bike, he probably won’t be able to do his job well… and the bike may probably break too.
Actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jamie Chung. AFP
In Premium Rush, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a bike messenger who rides like he has a death wish, and is given a package to be delivered in a certain amount of time to a certain place across the city. But things get strange, when an impatient, aggressive man (Michael Shannon) starts following Wilee, asking him to hand over the package. As Wilee goes about out-biking this guy — because once the package is with you, you do not give it to random strangers — he uncovers the truth about the package, leading to more chases, more action, more thrill, and an exciting blast of a finale.
David Koepp’s slick direction, especially his intercuts to graphic mapping of routes that makes the audience feel part of the chase too, combined with the awe-inspiring choreography of bike stunts amidst the busiest and most dangerous of Manhattan streets, makes the movie an urban popcorn classic.
As the sociopath, whose actions are darkly funny, Michael Shannon does the menacing bad guy act as well as he’s always done, but the movie’s shining star is the fantastic Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s so insanely good at being a biker that I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw him taking part in — and winning — the next Tour De France. Levitt adds so much heart, energy, drama and cool to Premium Rush that in a way, he is the premium rush in the film.
After some brilliant indies like Brick, Mysterious Skin and one of my favourite movies ever, (500) Days of Summer, Levitt’s career is skyrocketing towards greatness, and deservedly so. He’s already my favourite young actor and you can almost hear him say, “Give me your script, I’ll give you awesome.”
If there were only one reason to watch Premium Rush, it would be Levitt, although the movie’s the Fast and Furious of bikes, so that’s a great hard sell.