Chris & Marcey’s April Movie Exchange: Week 1 – Subway (1985)

Movie Exchange

What’s a Blog-a-thon? This movie exchange is a challenge, its participants have chosen films the other has not seen to watch and review.
Criteria for April: Foreign films we love
Why Chris Chose This Film For Marcey: The films of Luc Besson have always had a very special place in my heart for many reasons, mostly because Besson is one of my all time favorite directors and his films are some of my absolute favorites. I have fond memories watching all of his films, particularly LeonLe Grand Bleu, The Fifth Element and SubwaySubway was Besson’s second feature film following his debut, Le Dernier Combat, the story is a bit of an oddball crime/comedy/drama set amongst the underground Metro system of Paris. The film was one of two films that inspired the producers of Highlander to cast Christopher Lambert in the lead role of Connor MacLeod, the other film was Greystoke: the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and won Lambert the Ceasar award for Best Actor in 1986. As soon as Marcey told me that she had never seen it I thought it was the perfect opportunity to introduce her to one of Besson’s lesser known gems. I know that this will be a film that she’ll enjoy, regardless of her final rating as she will just enjoy gazing at Lambert and Besson’s other regulars, Jean Reno and Jean-Hugues Anglade.

Subway 1

Marcey’s Review
While I do have a love for Luc Besson, I actually haven’t seen some of his earlier works, and until now Subway was one of those. In fact I really hadn’t heard about this film until recently, which is bizarre as I am a huge Christopher Lambert fan as well. So I was quite glad Chris gave me this to watch for our Movie Exchange this month, something I haven’t seen as per the rules and a Besson film.

Subway is a bit of an oddity, it doesn’t have much of a plot, but what plot there is takes place mostly entirely in the Metro subway in France. We have Fred (Christopher Lambert) who from what I could gather blows up safes to steal the contents. After he does so in one particular place, he finds himself being chased by goons. These goons are set upon him by the man whose safe he blew up, but not satisfied, Fred decides to blackmail the man’s wife Helena (Isabelle Adjani). He has taken some important papers and she wants those back. The film then follows Fred as he discovers the little village of sorts in the subway, with a group of people who live down there.

We know next to nothing about the characters, Fred is a mystery through the entire film. But he is perhaps far more interesting because of that. We don’t know why he does what he does, why he decided to hide out in the subway, we only really know one thing about him (which I wont reveal). Helena we don’t know much about either, she’s beautiful yes, and we can gather she is unhappily married and came from nothing to marry a rich man. She is intrigued by Fred, and that is something I could relate to because I was as well. The Roller Skating Man in the subway is another mystery, who is he? Why does he skate? Why does he live there?


I guess we aren’t really supposed to know these things, they are who they are, they represent different types of people that existed back in the 80’s around Europe. This is what I believe the characters were there to represent, as well as the little subway village, and that way of life. It is a metaphor for a way of life that happened in the 80s’, the times were changing and so were the people. They don’t get held back, and the fact that the police and the security rarely could catch them, felt like it was saying that no one could capture and stop those changing times.

The film is very stylised, the way that Luc Besson has become known, it was early days in his career but it has that distinct Besson feel. The music never quite matches what is happening on screen, I did like this though. There was something very unique and very much 80’s with the music, it went along hand in hand with the film despite how strange it all really was. The subway setting was an interesting move, and it allowed Besson to create his own little world, this could have been a big failure, with that one setting, but it some how works.

For me personally the reason to watch this film is Christopher Lambert, this film got him noticed, it helped him make his mark and it wasn’t long after this he became a bigger star with Highlander. He is such a charismatic actor, one who can act without needing to say much, and as Fred when he does say something it is intriguing and I couldn’t look away. There really is something special about Lambert, and seeing an early film of his just confirms that fact. The rest of the cast are really good, Isabelle Adjani is gorgeous and such a strange character, she was well suited here.

Subway is a strange film, Besson was definitely finding his footing here, his masterpiece (Leon) was almost 10 years away when he made this. The seeds had been planted though, and it was an interesting experience to see just where he came from.


Review written by Marcella Papandrea


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