While watching “North by Northwest” by Alfred Hitchcock recently, I realized how trains make much better movie settings than planes.
In the movie, there’s the scene in the train’s dining car where Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint flirt. There are the scenes in her room, both humorous and romantic. And then, of course, there’s the last scene, where even 12-year-olds realize that the train going into the tunnel has some other meaning.
Trains are great settings because they have so much potential for action and to move the plot. There are the public settings, dining cars, observation decks and great scenery in the background. There are the private settings, rooms — and beds. In a plane it’s almost entirely public, and it’s all sitting. Can you image Cary and Eva Marie being sat together and as they flirt, the child in front of them decides to put his seat down. It might be funny, but it would spoil the moment.
The only private space on a plane is in the rest room, and that’s just where the bad guys go to arm the bomb or get the weapons ready.
Trains allow entrance and departure. You can get thrown off a moving train without anyone’s notice and live to re-appear. If “Silver Streak” had been set on a plane, how many times could George have been thrown from the plane?
And people can even change costumes in trains, which lets you include scenes about the luggage or the accidental opened door to the wrong compartment
Trains, as do all forms of public transportation create areas of conflict. The authorities are waiting at the train’s departure point, how will our stars escape? There’s also the increase tension when the train is running out of control. In the out of control area, trains and planes are evenly matched there.
There are two advantages planes have over trains. The movie “Snakes on a Plane” wouldn’t have the impact on a plane. And Goldfinger would not have been sucked through the window if he’d been on a train.
Five favorite movies with trains being essential to the plot are: