An original story of men of action versus men of contemplation, Ontario-made The Man on the Train strikes a chord with me and might well for many others appreciative of a slow-moving drama. The film stars Donald Sutherland and Larry Mullen Jr. Perhaps it is my love of movies that are 95% conversationally based, perhaps it is my appreciation for Donald Sutherland’s acting, or perhaps it is my love of omnipresent soundtracks that caused me to like this movie. Whatever the case, it represents a delightful and very frank break from the very self-conscious stylistic approach of Hollywood films, which focus on the visuals and the effect rather than the message.
One could almost call the film heartwarming were it not written in such an extraordinarily believable and real-life way. This might make it boring to some and genuine to others, but seeing the influence of two characters who randomly cross paths, a lifelong criminal and a retired professor of poetry, and the kind of influence they have on each other’s lives makes for a very strong viewing.
Sutherland’s character has spent the majority of his life living as safely and securely as possible, never taking any risks nor leaving the possibility for any mistakes or unexpected contingencies. He considers himself a man prepared for everything, with no imagination (Watch the scene with the toothbrushes.) His counterpart, Mullen Jr.’s character, is someone who has lived his life fast and is slowly but surely reaching the age at which he would prefer to settle down, and slow things down a bit.
Ultimately the message is that each man desires the other’s life. It takes on a more cynical note later on, but all is tied in to the point that the writer is trying to make. All things considered, it’s a solid, slow moving movie like Sling Blade or The Sunset Limited, with great dialogue, but its guilty of overdoing it a bit at times.