Director: Julian Kemp
Writer: Julian Kemp
Starring: Michael Sheen, Thomas Law, Harry Giubileo, Nathalie Emmanuel, Cary Elwes
Joining the almost endless list of Christmas films being released in 2021 is Last Train to Christmas. This marks Cary Elwes second Christmas film of the year, joining Netflix’s surprisingly decent A Castle for Christmas. This one isn’t as family friendly as most of the other Christmas films being released, with a more dark and sombre tone to it all.
Michael Sheen stars as Tony Towers, a nightclub owner in the 1980s, who has just gotten engaged to Sue (Nathalie Emmanuel) and has six new clubs opening in the new year. The couple are travelling on a train to spend Christmas with Tony’s family, they are joined by Tony’s brother, Roger (Cary Elwes), at one of the stops which causes rising tension in the group. Tony leaves the carriage, going to get champagne from the buffet, except when he goes to the next carriage, he’s taken roughly ten years into the future and realises that things don’t pan out. Each carriage is a different decade, and decisions made in one change the future in the rest of them. Tony realises that his life isn’t on the track he thought it was and starts messing with the past to try and align it with the best future possible, finding family secrets along the way.
The premise of Last Train to Christmas is really interesting, as long as you can ignore the fact that a lot of life-changing decisions were made on trains for Tony. All these pivotal moments make or break Tony and his brother. If he moves towards the front of the train, he moves forward in time, around a decade each carriage, and the same backwards when he travels to the back of the train. Little changes in conversations or ideas lead to massive changes in the next carriage. It really does have some suspenseful moments and will make you wonder what other changes he could do.
Michael Sheen is great in the film. He’s as charming as ever and is the main reason to watch it. Each carriage has its own look, representing the decade it is set in, and with each transition Sheen has a different outfit and hair style. They did a really great job with the set designs and costumes; they do look great. Nathalie Emmanuel is great in her limited role, taken out of Tony’s life quickly with changes in the past and Tony spends time trying to find her again.
The plot is contrived, so you do have to suspend belief that every massive moment in Tony’s life happened on a train, going to Nottingham. The biggest issue is the ending. Going slightly into spoilers, Tony goes right back to the 1940s, makes a massive change, and exits the train to get back on in the front carriage, skipping the whole of his life. It ends without the real pay-off. You don’t really know how his life pans out, and how is he going to explain his massive memory loss to his family. He seems happy, but it doesn’t feel well thought out.
Joining other Christmas films like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, Last Train to Christmas is about a man reflecting on his life and what he could have done different and how the future will turn out on his current course. It’s a really interesting idea and Michael Sheen is excellent, it just falls flat at the end.
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