The Transit Bandit: Our Review of ‘Off The Rails’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - October 07, 2016

Darius, a name fit for a king, a name given by mothers to their sons. The Darius in Adam Irving’s Off the Rails is Darius McCollum, a seemingly humble man. He puts on an MTA uniform the first time the movie shows him. But some people know him as the man compulsively impersonating New York City Transit workers. He has done this about 500 times in four decades. And the state has imprisoned him for half of his adult life for the things he did. He seems rational while narrating the film until he discloses that his Asperger’s syndrome drives him to his actions.

He’s frank about the illegal nature of his actions. Likewise, it seems like the film rewards both him and the audience by informing the latter of the the way the former’s brain. The film’s first minutes show him as the talking head as well as people who are on his side. It opens its audience up to his mental pathways and more than that, he tells us his opinions on how transit works. And his knowledge and perspective reflects a bigger picture.


He has impersonated train conductors and bus operators in the few transit systems that go through New York City. Most adults, on the other hand, repeat the same tasks as part of their employment. Of course there’s also the legitimate concern about him. That a person who is doing something that involves the safety of hundreds of lives but is not certified to do so.

I understand that grievance but the film just exposes that thin the line is between certified and uncertified. That the uncertified can be as competent as the certified. A society should do what it can so that competent people can be useful. Beyond that there should be a compromise for people who know how to do a bunch of things and a job market that only lets them choose one. And as the film and its talking heads underline, people like McCollum shouldn’t be jailed because they refuse to stay on one booth.

Most of the media mentioning McCollum are either local tabloid articles demonizing him and a sympathetic play about his life. The former subtly ignore his mental illness and deride his transit objection. The film and its subject is open to his dark sides but otherwise it thankfully puts him and what he loves on a needed positive light.

  • Release Date: 10/7/2016
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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