Don't waste time with the Tony Scott shakycam remake of PELHAM 123 which was a massive disappointment - stick with the 1974 original, which is WAY better and I will say seems a lot more realistic for the most part and also gets one thing right that other train disaster movies/thrillers don't - the Deadman's Feature. Watch closely, they find a way around it!! Anyway, the story concerns hijackers who hold the mayor of New York to ransom for a few million dollars(!) by taking a subway car loaded with passengers who give this movie some amusing moments at times with the various reactions to their situation, surprisingly and take on their own character in their own way. Walther Matthau is on top form as Lieutenant Garber, the NY transit cop who has to negotiate with the hijackers and stop passengers getting killed while all around him subway employees and local cops make things difficult. Robert Shaw is the hijacker gang leader who is also suitably chilling. Watch out as well for Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo(THE PRINCESS DIARIES, CHICAGO HOPE) in supporting roles helping out Shaw. I can't help thinking as well that their codenames, based on colors, might have inspired Tarantino with RESERVOIR DOGS character names!
There are plenty of exciting and suspenseful moments as well - the NYPD's attempt to get the money across town to the hijackers while Lt Garber tries to prevent the killing of a hostage, and the ending and final nail-biting climax isn't quite what you'd expect. What's also interesting is that this movie was shot on NY subway property and at the start you get a bit of insight into how things work in a scene featuring a trainee driver and a group of visiting Tokyo subway bosses . . . which does have an amusing punchline when Garber makes a slightly bigoted comment! So this will also appeal to subway/train enthusiasts as well in many ways.
Overall, I can't recommend this enough!!