Or, my favourite Christmas movie. I’m sorry, I’m English so I still say film 🙂
Anyway, this one is my favourite:
This film is pure magic. I like it because there is no smug little actor or actress repeating cheesy lines and trying to look all cutesy. It’s all about the story, the possibility, the train and the power of believing.
Here’s a breakdown of the movie:
On Christmas Eve of the late 1950s, a young boy living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, questions his belief in Santa Claus. While sleeping, he magically discovers a steam-powered passenger train named “The Polar Express”. The conductor (Tom Hanks) tells him that the train is headed to the North Pole. At first the boy refuses, he boards the train while it leaves.
Once aboard, the boy encounters other children, including a young girl (Nona Gaye) and a know-it-all (Eddie Deezen). The train stops again at another house; 11344 Edbrooke Ave., for a young boy named Billy (Peter Scolari). Billy at first refuses to get on, but as the train starts to leave he attempts to board, but is unsuccessful. The boy applies the emergency brake so Billy can board the train. When the children are given hot chocolate the girl hides and saves a cup for Billy who is riding in the observation car. The conductor helps her deliver it. The boy discovers that she left her ticket on the seat. He attempts to bring it to her but loses it in the wind while passing between carriages. The girl returns to find her ticket missing and the boy tells the conductor that he lost it.
The conductor takes the girl up to the train’s roof. The protagonist finds that the ticket has flown back into the train, grabs it and climbs onto the train’s roof to give the ticket to the girl but arrives to see the light of the conductor’s lantern vanish in the darkness. He crosses along the train’s roof until he meets a hobo, who claims to be the owner of The Polar Express and king of the North Pole. The hobo gives the boy some coffee, who expresses doubt that Santa exists. With that, the hobo replies that if he is seen, the boy actually believes in Santa. He then helps him follow the conductor and girl. They ski down the train roof as it approaches Flat Top Tunnel. The hobo claims that the tunnel’s clearance is low. The boy hops in the engine as the hobo magically vanishes in the air.
The boy finds that the girl is driving the train while Steamer, the engineer and Smokey, the fireman, try to fix the train’s headlight. They are forced to stop when a herd of caribou block the tracks. The conductor gets the caribou to move by pulling Smokey’s beard, making him yell. The train continues with the conductor, the boy, and the girl stuck in the front of the engine. When the cotter pin of the throttle slips off, the train accelerates dangerously while riding along Glacier Gulch. The train soon reaches a lake freezing over the tracks. However, the lost cotter pin pierces the ice and begins to crack, putting everybody in danger. Smokey immediately repairs the throttle, and the conductor orders the train to full-speed to get the train to the other side of the lake.
Once having arrived at the North Pole, the boy and the girl find Billy alone in the observation car. The boy accidentally uncouples it, causing it to speed backwards. The three make their way back to the city square and travel from section to section throughout the North Pole. While Santa’s sleigh is being readied, a bell falls off a harness. The boy picks it up and shakes it after remembering that the girl and Billy could hear a bell earlier when he could not. The boy then says he believes in the spirit of Christmas and finally hears the bell. Santa selects the boy to receive “The First Gift of Christmas”, and the boy chooses the bell.
As the children prepare to head home, the conductor takes their tickets and punches an individual message for each of them. Once aboard, the boy discovers that the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. When Billy is dropped off home, the boy finds out that Santa had already visited his house. The boy arrives home and the conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas as well as the others on board waving goodbye.
On Christmas morning, the boy’s sister Sarah finds a small present hidden behind the Christmas tree. The boy opens the present and discovers that it is the bell, which Santa found. When the boy rings the bell, both he and Sarah marvel at its beautiful sound. However, their parents neither believe in Santa Claus nor the spirit of Christmas and do not hear it and remark it to be broken. In the film’s last line, the boy, narrating decades later, recites the book’s final line:
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
Nowadays, some train companies operate a “Polar Express”. Kids and even parents board in their PJs and drink hot chocolate whilst riding the train.
There’s a company here who do this. I’m taking my little boy next year!