Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Castaway) incorporates a new system of performance capture animation into this amazing film. Tom Hanks takes on several roles including the time keeping conductor who provides special guidance for three special children on a magical journey.
Zemeckis and his co-writer William Broyles Jr. (Apollo 13, TV’s China Beach) don’t concentrate on character names, so the audience gets more involved in the story, which is based on the book of the same name written by Chris Van Allsburg. The plot centers on a cautious boy, a caring girl, a know-it-all boy and younger boy named Billy.
Filmmakers combine expert film techniques with the almost seamless special effects to create immense environments as the Polar Express train chugs toward the North Pole. The plot includes many dangers (Flat Top Tunnel, Glacier Gulch and a thrilling ice sequence) and delights (details of Santa’s operations and skydiving elves).
Zemeckis takes full advantage of the animated medium by utilizing special camera shots that would normally be almost impossible (e.g. several transparent shots from underneath a book page, ice and the ground).
Zemeckis also incorporates “arrow-like” tracking shots through keyholes and the train cabin to great effect. You may see more subtle touches in repeated viewings (e.g. watch the snowman closely as the boy leaves his house on the train.
Don Burgess (Contact, Spider-Man) and Robert Presley provide crisp, clear cinematography while Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) produces another amazing musical score (he has composed over 100 in his career). The soundtrack includes great original songs and score segments from the film plus holiday classics from Bing Crosby, The Andrew Sisters and Perry Como.
Highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and rated G for some scary situations. Emotional themes reflecting genuine care, love and humanity make this film an instant classic.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler