Off The Rails – Review1.10.16 # Review # One Comment
Off the Rails tells the story of Darius McCollum, a New Yorker who is “really good with trains, but [who] can’t seem to figure out people”. Darius has Asperger’s syndrome, and from a young age develops a fascination with public transit – a world where schedules and routines dictate the actions of those around him. It wouldn’t be long before Darius would begin to drive trains himself, an activity that proved to be therapeutic, bringing him a level of comfort and joy that he was unable to find elsewhere. However, Darius would not be under the employment of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority when operating these trains. He’d do so illegally. For decades.
Hijacking both trains and buses over several years would land Darius in jail several times, and at no point would he be effectively rehabilitated, so the cycle would continue. About an hour in, Off the Rails feels like it’s told all there is to tell. The story is compelling, but becomes less so through repetition, even though it’s essential to the story of a repeat offender. Fortunately, the film catches up with Darius in the present day and is able to follow him as he’s released from prison for his most recent offence. Seeing Darius deal with the world is as interesting as learning about why he’s been jailed so many times, if not more so. One particular highlight is seeing him play a mobile game that allows him to essentially simulate his crimes.
Off the Rails tells a remarkable story – Darius’s crimes are essentially victimless, though they are endangering the public, and no one is liable for Darius but himself. There doesn’t seem to be a solution to the problem and in fact, there are barely any ideas in that regard from either those trying to assist him or those who are required to punish him by law. It all seems farcical, but the situation is ultimately tragic. Darius doesn’t get a job at the New York Transit Museum or become an Uber driver, his misguided passions remain misguided, and Off the Rails forces viewers to question how such a unique series of offences should be dealt with.