Robert Shaw did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bernard Ryder "Mr. Blue" in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three.
Shaw is master villain here, and it is marvelous to watch him build such a threatening character yet keeping the character extremely calm and cool throughout the film. I particularly love the scene where he tells the hostages they are hostages and tells them that with his machine gun he could kill all of them before they could even get out of their seats. There is an incredible underlying intensity that shows that every threat he makes he will be able to fulfill quickly without a second thought necessary. Shaw makes Mr. Blue a truly imposing force throughout the film.
Shaw, even though Mr. Blue is indeed very calm and collected individual, never for an instance makes this a one note performance. Shaw has a great deal of fun alluding to the background, as well as motivation of Mr. Blue even though this really is not given too much time. These come in his terrific scenes with Martin Balsam's Mr. Green, and as I said in his review the two are great together. Shaw though is spectacular becuase he honestly makes the ability for Blue to go from threatening a group of people with two to casually talking about not wanting to sell insurance both entirely natural, as well as properly humorous. The same goes for every little short aside with Walter Matthau when Matthau's Garber makes a snarky comment toward, and Shaw perfectly comes back with Blue's bluntness to Garber's jokes.
Shaw also has a lot of delicious fun with just the overt Britishness of his character. Blue was a soldier in the British army and it clearly has rubbed off on him. Shaw shows that the way he handles the train is much like the way a strict commander would handle his troops, but as well he has lighter entertaining moments from his outstanding diction and his always proper use of British language. One moment in particular that is superb is when Mr. Blue tells to put two men approaching the train to put their hands in evidence, but quickly has to adjust to telling them to put their hands up. Shaw so well uses such small subtle moments to endless benefit in this performance.
In this great underrated film humor and serious moments are intertwined flawlessly from scene to scene, and Shaw aids in this along the way with the moments with Balsam and Matthau in particular, but he the strongest moments of the film due come in the more dramatic moments. For most of the time things go absolutely according to Blue's plan which he states without hesitations, Shaw presses this point especially well when he lists a long lists of demands and in his entirely confidant fashion says that he'll shoot a hostage if any of the demands are not met. There is no grey area in Shaw performance, Blue will not be convinced to do anything other than he has determined to do.
His two most powerful moments in his performance are the two scenes where Mr. Blue kill someone. The first which is retribution for one of his men being fired on is made especially chilling by Shaw because of how welcoming and pleasant he is toward the man he is leading toward his death. The actually killing is done quickly in a purely business man like fashion, but the equally strong moment of Shaw's performance is the deadly look he gives his psychotic subordinate Mr. Grey who he stares down showing clearly who is in charge. After the killing Shaw important;y does not show remorse in Mr. Blue, but rather when contacting Garber again only angry frustrations for being forced to do his own perceived duty to carry out his personal mission.
The second killing comes in the form of dealing with Mr. Grey, which Shaw again shows purely efficiently, with just the slightest distaste in his face, not for his action, but for having to ever have to deal with the sort that was Mr. Grey. Shaw makes Mr. Blue as the greatest villain he possibly could have been. A portrait of a brilliant commander who has taken on a different endeavor, than his training was for but still handles the new situation with all of his skill. Shaw makes Blue a completely imposing villain that always does things his way no matter what, even at the end of the film where it seems he has only one option Blue still goes out his way, and Shaw portrays this final act like a man who only does things the way he wants. All together Shaw makes Mr. Blue an entertaining, chilling, and imposing villain all at once.