"Premium Rush" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Wilee, a Columbia Law dropout-turned-bike messenger, who must deliver an important package from Lerner Hall to Chinatown right away. First things first: Columbia is depicted a little imprecisely, but it ends up looking kind of awesome. Lerner C555 becomes a spacious student café. There are bike racks and food carts on campus, in useful locations! In one dramatic scene, Roone turns into a huge, sinister, interrogation room (I laughed, inappropriately). And Lerner somehow delivers a package on time. There is a great reference to our Columbia, however, when Wilee angrily phones his dispatcher, suspicious that his package contains illegal drugs. The dispatcher protests: "It can't be drugs! This package is from a highly respected east coast college!" Then, in a secret aside, he muses: "Probably drugs "more More importantly, though: "Premium Rush" truly delivers in its surprisingly accurate, adrenaline-pumping portrayal of what it's like to ride like a maniac in New York City's warlike streets. It's gritty. It's original. And it's a ton of fun. Gordon-Levitt, who dropped out of Columbia in 2004, is the smirking-yet-irresistible dynamo that drives this energetic 90-minute film, which manages to put characters in actual dialogue with each other while running red lights, riding the wrong way against moving traffic, and holding onto moving vehicles in what is basically a continuous chase scene from the opening to the credits. And it's clever: The action slows down to Matrix-time as Wilee approaches a busy, moving intersection and evaluates his various options. We see how each path plays out in slow-mo: getting hit by a bus, running over a lady with a baby carriage, and so on, before he chooses the correct one, the action returns to full speed, and he zips through the chaos and rolls into the next scene. I'm reminded of how Tim Kreider of the Times once wrote, "Riding my bike in Manhattan is one of the only times when I am never anxious or afraid It's meditation at gunpoint." Likewise, director David Koepp does a good job of stripping away most of the self-consciousness and melodrama that plagues the typical Hollywood thriller. By simplifying the plot and focusing on keeping the action fresh, the film itself feels light, free, and unencumbered… kind of like riding a bike. And that's why the film is so satisfying. It's focused entirely on the excitement of the ride, both literally and metaphorically. Aside from a few scenes explaining the back story of Wilee's package, "Premium Rush" mostly excises the bullshit, keeping us rooted in the present, where all the fun happens. In one telling scene, Wilee is explaining his beliefs in Buddhist philosophies to a love interest when she interjects. "But aren't you afraid of dying? The way you ride?" "You wanna know what scares me?" Wilee responds. "It's what happened to my friends who just got out of law school. Compared to that, going down Broadway at fifty with no brakes is fine." (Ed. note: Going down Broadway at fifty with no brakes is not fine.) By all means, stay in school, my fellow Columbians. But go for a bike ride this fall. And see this movie. Just for fun. You won't regret it. Wilfred Chan, CC '13, is a Columbia Outdoor Biking Orientation Leader and an avid road cyclist.
Filming Premium Rush