Last Train to Freo (2006)

Director Jeremy Sims
Writers Reg Cribb
Starring Steve Le Marquand, Tom Budge, Gigi Edgley, Glenn Hazeldine, Gillian Jones
Genre Psychological
Tagline There is a reason people avoid strangers on trains.

Last Train to Freo is one of those movies that has been floating around for a while and which is now gradually gaining a cult following as more people become exposed to the shenanigans aboard the last train to Fremantle on I guess a Wednesday evening. When do they pay dole payments anyway? The movie is one of those outings that demonstrate you don't need a house being sold for under market value that may or may not harbour a dark secret, or some outback killer to have yourself a horror flick. A good old fashion psychological journey into people's darker natures generally does the job just as well, and lets face facts here, in the right hands a heck of a lot better than the traditional style horror flick. Naturally the mainstream press have labelled Last Train to Freo as either a "drama" or heaven forbid a "thriller". Since we're neither "press" nor mainstream we'll just call it a psychological horror flick and take it from there.

Talk us through it

Two thugs join a train at the Perth suburb of Midland, they are bored and looking for trouble. A beautiful young law student joins the train a few stops later and the two thugs turn their attention to harassing her. As more people join the train the situation gradually gets more tense as worlds collide. We learn that not all is as it may seem and the two thugs find themselves in a situation they weren't expecting.

Filmed in real time Last Train to Freo is a ride into the dark side of human nature with surprising revelations.


"I know what you are. It's enough." - Simon

Director Jeremy Sims does the near impossible with Last Train, he takes a single location, a limited cast, and makes a movie simply dripping with tension. Through out our train journey, the movie is filmed in real time between the Perth suburb of Midland and the city of Fremantle, the camera never leaves the single carriage events in the movie go down in. We are introduced to our two antagonists via a static camera angle from where the carriage will be in about five minutes. Sims just films are starkly as possible, there's no excess colour in use, the Director is almost hitting an Eastern European sterile style of film making here. Our duo join the train and the audience get their first exposure to writer Reg Cribb's wonderful use of dialogue, the dude is all over that aspect of his script and thankfully it's sounding realistic and true to life. Yes people talk like that down here and if you listen to 95% of conversations on a commuter train they are pretty much of the asinine variety. Folks we are no where near as interesting as we may believe we are. Our two bogans, named Trev and "The Tall Thug", carry out a pretty empty and meaningless conversation as our journey into darkness begins. The train is empty and Cribb indicates so are the lifes of his two characters. Director Sims does hit a wonderful note, gosh pun intended, as Trev plays along to the classical music being piped into the carriage on an "air violin". Naturally Trev finishes his impromptu performance with a heavy metal flourish of imaginary lighter fluid. It's actually a pretty striking, no pun intended, scene and shows early that the Director has this movie on a leash and is bringing it to heel. Wonder if I could enlist him to work on my Jack Russell terrier, you a dog whisperer Sims?

Early in the movie, and this is crucial to raising the tension stakes, Sims shows that "The Tall Thug" can be, when the mood takes him, a bully or likeable or even eloquent. Sims also shows that violence isn't that far away at any given moment and "The Tall Thug" has one hell of a short fuse. The Director gets this happening almost as an aside during the whole dog poo on shoes scene. Notably when the violence goes down Sims has the pace of the movie racketed up a notch to fast and furious. Also notable during this scene is the fact that "The Tall Thug" has got it wrong.

It's the implicit violence simmering away just below the surface that makes Director Sims movie a harrowing journey into darkness.

A few stations further down the line and Lisa boards the train, a young good looking law student. Naturally the audience is fearing the worse as our two bogans turn their attention to her. "The Tall Thug" is all charm and playing the world experienced traveller, I was thinking "bullshit artist" immediately, while Trev does his schlock. Gradually the one sided conversation becomes two way, and you are wondering if that piped in greatest hits of the classics is actually having the desired effect. And if you believe that then you should get a job in communications for one of the Government agencies that specialise in sending people to unrealistic social conditioning courses.

Some relief for an audience waiting on the worse to go down, yes we don't have great faith in human nature during a horror flick folks, is provided with a couple of aditional passengers entering the carriage as the journey progresses. Maureen is escaping her own life but is prepared to get right into the "The Tall Thug's" face over his actions toward Lisa, while Simon is a quiet bookish sort who looks to be hopefully going under the bogan radar. Unfortunately for both our new commuters "The Tall Thug" is getting off on his control of the situation and neither will be left alone. Surprisingly however not all is as it appears with writer Cribb throwing some bouncers at us in the form of some pretty unexpected plot twists, I certainly wasn't expecting what went down as the train moves closer to journey's end.

With only one location and few cameras to work with Director Sims takes his limited visual opportunities, this movie is mainly dialogue, and manages to wring every ounce out of it. With each station stop Sims aims his camera out the carriage door to give us a static view of the ever changing Perth urbanscape. We get everything from industrial parks to apparently a local hot spot, a chick spewing in the foreground actually works quite well there as it's pretty unexpected. This serves to break up the constant angles around our carriage. The Director also takes the interesting approach of extreme close-ups as various characters go into monologue mode, that should be a jarring effect but somehow Sims has things humming along. Surprisingly, and I only learnt this via the press kit for the movie, Sims uses HD throughout which isn't noticable and says alot about the Director's abilities and the improved technology.

During the course of the movie the Director seems to be primed for one thing, mounting tension with implied violence lurking just below the surface. Sims pulls it off and delivers a sensational movie as a result.

Steve Le Marquand (The Tall Thug) simply lands on Last Train with both feet firmly planted, and gives one of the great performances of Australian cinema. How the hell this dude didn't walk off with a number of local awards remains a mystery, oh wait no it doesn't, the inbred nature of the powers that be down here precludes anything actually good from being recognised. All things being equal, to use an economic term, Le Marquand should be headed for bigger things as a result of his role here. Tom Budge (Trev) does what he can with his role and actually does make you like a character that is just following the lead of someone else. Trev is the habitual "hanger on" and Budge nails that aspect.

Gigi Edgley (Lisa), Glenn Hazeldine (Simon), and Gillian Jones (Maureen) all turn in great performances. This really is a very good cast, but hey Le Marquand is simply stealing scenes here.

Nothing much in the T&A stakes folks, but considering the subject nature here that could of got real confronting real fast. Excellent choice by Sims to not distract his audience. U.S Directors like Rob Zombie could learn a heck of a lot about how to construct a horror flick from watching Last Train to Freo, it's not all exploitation and lowest common element folks.

Surprisingly we have a classical music soundtrack going down during the entire running time of Last Train rather than the Producers resorting to some Aussie rock of the AC/DC style. This proves to be another great decision as the juxtaposition is simply awe inspiring as a "world's collide" style of movie goes down on us.

Summary Execution Last Train to Freo is one of those Aussie movies that simply hit you between the eyes like a sledgehammer. The tension is thick and at no stage are you going to work out how this will all resolve as secrets are revealed and lives are changed for ever. I haven't had this sort of reaction to a movie since I first caught Bad Boy Bubby, I was speechless over the power of a very underrated movie. I simply can't wait to see what the movie makers might be working on next.

Seems there's a whole bunch of differing views as to what the underlying themes are of Last Train to Freo. Economic disparity, isolation, dispossession, and increasing violence towards the more affluent in our society, have been touched on in various reviews and for sure Sims is touching bases with each of those ideas to either a greater or lesser extent. Maureen's verbal attack on the two bogans certainly underpins society's growing concerns about the endemic violence creeping onto our streets and trains in the face of a police force seemingly unable to take any action. And at one stage "The Tall Thug" does mention that they live in the most isolated City in the world, was that really a theme then? I must admit I was thinking more along the lines of control and the meaning of that concept than anything else. "The Tall Thug" has control of the situation for the majority of the movie, in the end he loses it, but does he use another controlling device other than violence as the situation threatens to go beyond his ability to manipulate events? After "The Tall Thug" leaves Fremantle station his final facial expression simply echoes that he is the consummate BS artist very aware of the emotional impact he has left behind. Take whatever you want from the movie however there's probably a hundred and one different views as to what it all means.

For all those folk from the beyond who read the site and hold the Australian people responsible for Baz's Strictly Ballroom remake Australia this is our penance and also a bloody good example of what our film makers are capable of doing given enough funds and unlimited use of their talents. If you are planning on seeing just one Aussie movie this year then make that movie Last Train to Freo you will be totally dirty on yourself if you miss this film. Push pensioners out of the way to get onboard Director Sims funky train to tensionville, one of the best psychological thrillers ever to have been made in this country.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Trample over family and friends if they can't get out of your way quick enough when you rush the DVD store to score a copy of Last Train to Freo. Yes it's that good.