Review: The Man On The Train
October 27, 2011
The 2002 film, Man On The Train, by acclaimed French director Patrick Leconte, is re-imagined in a new remake, The Man On The Train, directed by Mary McGuckian, starring Donald Sutherland and Larry Mullen Jr.
Sutherland plays The Professor, a retired literature buff who lives out a lonely retirement in a lavish, hollow mansion. Mullen takes on the role of The Man, a quiet, focused criminal who spends his life not becoming too attached to anything. After the two meet-cute in a small-town pharmacy, The Man seeks temporary shelter at The Professor's home while he prepares for his next heist.
The Professor, starved for conversation and companionship, attempts to befriend the elusive visitor, while The Man studies The Professor like a textbook. This makes for some very lengthy unintentional monologues by Sutherland, who injects the role with an impressive enthusiasm. Mullen is stoic, yet smart, as his primary listener.
What emerges is a more tender result than that of the original film — in fact, Sutherland and Mullen have such a familiar spark that they form somewhat of an indie-film odd couple. Each knows his place in the world but longs to live in the other's shoes, if only for a moment. It's a friendship by thoughtful default.
The film, shot on location in Canada, features gorgeous cinematography, which echoes that of the original French backdrop. The town is quaint; the landscape lush, and an overall air of "good" permeates the vibe. There is almost a sense of sadness in knowing that soon the townspeople's only bank will be robbed.
Many U2 fans will notice the similarities in Mullen and the character he portrays. He's a man of few words, he's tough, he's strong, he's handsome and always in control. To say that he's well-cast would be putting it mildly. Sure, he's "playing to type" in one respect, but there are also many dimensions of The Man he brings to life that have nothing to do with rock star behaviors.
The Man, perhaps in spite of himself, develops a compassion for his host as he gets to know him. This causes him to reveal more of his life than one would suspect he normally does. In one particularly tense scene in a diner, The Man appears to hold his breath along with the audience as The Professor tries to diffuse a rowdy situation. He's rattled ... and impressed.
Mullen conveys all of these emotions and intentions primarily through his facial expressions and body language. He also somehow manages to get the audience to sympathize with his character, though for all intents and purposes, he's playing the villain.
The film's slow pace won't be for everyone; it's more artistic than action-packed, but for those who have the patience to see it through, they'll be rewarded with a thought-provoking and satisfying end.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a beautiful extracurricular career for thespian Mullen.
(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2011.
Photo credit: Sophie Girau. Courtesy of Tribeca Film.
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