Subway (film)

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Subway affiche.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luc Besson
Produced by Luc Besson
François Ruggieri
Written by Luc Besson
Marc Perrier
Starring Isabelle Adjani
Christopher Lambert
Michel Galabru
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Music by Éric Serra
Cinematography Carlo Varini
Edited by Sophie Schmit
Distributed by Gaumont (France)
Island Pictures (USA)
Release dates 1985
Running time 104 min.
Country France
Language French
Box office € 26,488,295

Subway is a 1985 French comedy drama film directed by Luc Besson and starring Isabelle Adjani and Christopher Lambert. The film is classified as part of the cinema du look movement.[citation needed]


Having stolen some compromising documents from a powerful and successful entrepreneur/gangster at a party, a man known as Fred (Lambert) escapes from the police and takes refuge in the underground world of the Paris Métro stations and tunnels. There he joins the dwellers and befriends several colourful characters, including others who are living under the subway to avoid police arrest. While the gangster's henchmen try to find Fred, he develops a romance with the gangster's young trophy wife Héléna (Adjani). She had originally invited Fred to the party featured at the opening of the film, and is bored with her gilded-caged life.

Fred forms a pop band with some of his friends, such as "The Drummer" (Reno) and Enrico The Bass Player (Serra), who compose the songs. While Fred is working on this project, Héléna's powerful husband pressures the police to find the fugitive. One of Fred's sidekicks, The Rollerskater, who has been wanted by the police for a long time, is captured by Commissioner Gesberg (Galabru). Fred and his friend The Florist rob a train carrying money; The Florist escapes, leaving Fred with the loot.

Fred uses money from the robbery to pay off a band scheduled to perform in the subway station. His new band replaces them but, at their performance, Fred is searched by the police and a henchman of Héléna's husband. The henchman shoots Fred just as Héléna was about to reach and warn him of danger. The film ends with Héléna kneeling beside Fred, who is lying on his back, looking content and singing along with the band. They are playing and being applauded by the audience in the background. The outcome of the relationship between Fred and Helena, and whether he survives the shooting, are left unsettled.



Subway was the third-most popular French film in France in 1986, after Trois Hommes et un Couffin and Les Specialistes. It attracted 2,920,588 cinemagoers.[1][2] Christopher Lambert won a César Award for best actor.[1]

The film holds an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on seven reviews.[3] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film's "highly energetic visual style" and "the sheer fun of staging domestic scenes, musical interludes and roller-skate chases in the underground" but added that "[the] characters and situations [are] so thin that they might as well be afterthoughts".[4]


Éric Serra's score and other musical pieces from the soundtrack, such as Fred's band's song, "It's Only Mystery" (also written by Serra), were released on vinyl and cassette in 1985. The soundtrack was not available on CD until the RCA/BMG France reissue (UPC 766485280541) in 2003.

English language releases[edit]

The film was produced and released in two English-language variants. One uses English overdubbing, with Lambert, Adjani and possibly Anglade performing their own English dialogue,. It has several Americanized script differences (e.g. a reference to "Custer at the Little Big Horn" instead of "Napoleon at Waterloo"), and a number of very loose translations from the original French dialogue. This is the version that has had the widest distribution in North America.

The French-audio, English-subtitled version is identical to the French cinematic release, and has more accurate dialogue translations. Long unavailable except on rare alternative VHS copies, it was re-released as the 2001 reissue version of the U.S. (NTSC, Region 1) DVD (ISBN 076786557X, UPC 043396063310), along with the English-dubbed audio track and a new Spanish subtitles option. It is also available on a 2009 region-free Blu-ray release. Earlier region 1 DVDs (1997, UPC 084296400973), the laserdisc (ca. 1988, UPC 086162606069) and almost all NTSC VHS copies (1986, UPC 086162696930, reissued as a shortened 98-minute cut with new cover art in 2001, UPC 043396063396) have only the dubbed version.

Film references[edit]

Fred's shooting is based loosely on the ending of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960), which became an icon of the New Wave. The opening car chase scene is a reference to Besson's feature film, Le dernier combat (1983).[5]


  1. ^ a b French Cinema - Powrie & Reader
  2. ^
  3. ^ Subway reviews, Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ "Review", Janet Maslin, The New York Times, November 6, 1985
  5. ^ Larek, S. (6 September 2009). "Dans le metro: A UK Blu-ray review of Subway". DVD Outsider – Beyond the Mainstream. UK: DVD Outsider Ltd. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 

External links[edit]