Have you ever met someone, and wished you could have their spot in life, and then realized they wished the same with you? That’s what The Man on the Train, a remake of the French L’homme du train, focuses on quite brilliantly.
Professor (Donald Sutherland) and the Thief (Larry Mullen Jr.) each discovers about one another when they meet by chance in a pharmacy. Thief needs some medication to handle his migraines but doesn’t have a prescription. Professor has just filled his and he and Thief strike up a quick friendship.
Neither is ever given a name, nor do we find ever find it out. It’s in their back story, developed over the film’s 100 minute running length, that we discover two really fascinating characters.
Professor is looking down the barrel of mortality, a major surgery on the horizon. Both are disaffected from society for a variety of reasons. Professor is a bit of an oddball, never having married or having kids. He lived with his mother until she died and his home, her former residence, is a sort of mausoleum of her life. He doesn’t want to change a thing if only because he still fears her wrath. He always did the right thing, never getting into fights as a child or breaking laws. He was an academic who still tutors young adults in his free time in retirement but always wished he lived the sort of life he imagines Thief did.
Thief is in town to pull off a bank robbery with a crew. Thief is reticent to do this upcoming job for this is what he does. He’s just as disaffected from society as Professor but it’s not because he’s an oddball; he’s a criminal who makes a living by living outside the law. Somewhere in his past he always wished to be a poet like the guys the Professor once taught about.
The film follows the two as they both prepare for life changing events. As they prepare for their life changing events both men discover a lot about one another and the paths that led them to that very moment. And the key to the film is that Donald Sutherland has just enough brilliance to carry Mullen up to his level as well as Mary McGuckian is smart enough to keep the Mullen with Sutherland for most of the film’s running time.
Mullen is making his feature film debut but is best known for another creative endeavor: as the drummer for international rock band U2. It has to be a daunting task to be opposite a film legend like Sutherland in a role tailor made for him, especially in your first role as an actor after a lifetime of being the drummer for one of the world’s biggest rock bands. Mullen admirably acquits himself as it’s impossible to tell that he’s had limited experience as an actor; it feels like he’s another character actor getting a break or he’s been a “that guy” for years.
It doesn’t hurt that he has a veteran hand like Sutherland across from him on the screen. Sutherland is in a role practically written for him, though obviously merely adapted from the French film with virtually the same character, in that it’s exactly the type of role Sutherland plays best at the twilight of his career. The Professor is an old man reflecting upon a life spent as opposed to being closer to the middle like the Thief, the exact perfect role for Sutherland to take at this point. There’s wisdom in what he says; we don’t have to know about Professor’s past to feel his regret because Sutherland is world-weary.
Crime films aren’t supposed to be contemplative pieces about the role of man; The Man from the Train bucks this by making a contemplative film around two men.
Deleted Scenes are included but don’t add much back into the film.
Crime films aren’t supposed to be contemplative pieces. The Man on the Train decides to do that and becomes an interesting piece on the nature of man.
Tribeca Films presents The Man on the Train . Written and Directed by Mary McGuckian based off of Claude Klotz’s original screenplay L’homme du train. Starring Donald Sutherland, Larry Mullen Jr. Running time: 100 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: April 17, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Donald Sutherland