×

The Man on the Train

Faithfully following the same track as the acclaimed 2002 French drama that inspired it, "The Man on the Train" is a leisurely paced but consistently engrossing tale of two men who come to see in each other the end of a road not taken.

With:
With: Donald Sutherland, Larry Mullen Jr., Graham Greene, Tony Nardi, Kate O'Toole, Carlo Rota.

Faithfully following the same track as the acclaimed 2002 French drama that inspired it, “The Man on the Train” is a leisurely paced but consistently engrossing tale of two men who come to see in each other the end of a road not taken. With Donald Sutherland offering one of his finest performances and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. demonstrating his proficiency in a character-actor gig, this Canadian-produced version of Patrice Leconte’s arthouse hit could attract sophisticated viewers when it pulls into VOD and homevid stations Oct. 28.

Capably directed by Irish helmer Mary McGuckian (“This Is the Sea”), whose screenplay is aptly billed as a “translation” in the opening credits, “Man on the Train” pivots on a chance encounter between two disparate characters who are no less memorable for never being identified by name.

The traveler of the title (Mullen) arrives late one afternoon in a small town, obviously with something illegal on his agenda. Just as obviously, he has a throbbing headache, which necessitates a trip to the local pharmacy. That’s where he meets a retired literature professor (Sutherland) who just happens to be getting a refill for his migraine medicine.

Immediately intrigued by the newcomer, the professor offers the stranger a few pills and, since the only hotel in town is shuttered for the season, a place to stay. Warily, the stranger accepts the offer of hospitality but is slow to respond to his host’s conversational gambits. That’s OK: The professor is perfectly willing to do enough talking for both of them.

Gradually, however, each man becomes fascinated by, and maybe a tad envious of, how the other lives. The professor, long resigned to a life of safe routines and avoided risks, bemoans his “uncanny ability to miss out on all the highlights of my life,” and wishes he could come across as mysterious, if not downright dangerous, as his younger, less loquacious guest. Meanwhile, the stranger wanders about the cluttered rooms of the professor’s spacious home, slips into a pair of his host’s comfy slippers and finds himself amazed by his sudden contentment.

There are supporting players here and there in the margins of “Man on the Train,” but not even third-billed Graham Greene — whose role as an eccentric getaway driver is little more than a walk-on — has much to do. Indeed, only Kate O’Toole, effortlessly conveying mature sensuality as the professor’s longtime paramour, manages to briefly dispel the overall impression that the pic is basically a sturdily constructed two-hander.

As the aged professor, a role played in Leconte’s original by Jean Rochefort, Sutherland deftly balances melancholy and self-mockery, along with a few welcome flashes of twinkly eyed bemusement. In many scenes, the veteran actor is so clearly relishing his role that his pleasure is highly contagious. Mullen provides the perfect counterpoint, playing the taciturn stranger as a hardboiled cynic who only gradually admits to his own sort of wistful longing, and seems pleasantly surprised by his willingness to be a sympathetic, even empathetic listener.

In a nice touch, the stranger (played by another actor-musician, Johnny Hallyday, in Leconte’s version) recalls being moved by the words of Charles Bukowksi, even though he doesn’t know who the poet is or what poem the words are from. The professor, it should be noted, seems more partial to e.e. cummings.

With the invaluable assistance of lenser Stefan Von Bjorn and production designer Jennifer Carroll, McGuckian makes shrewd use of the pic’s central location — the house, cluttered with books and bric-a-brac, which the professor shared with his now-deceased mother — to subtly reveal different aspects of her two lead characters. For one, the place is a museum for a life that hasn’t been lived so much as decorously maintained; for the other, it is a warm and inviting refuge that, alas, can’t truly be savored.

The Man on the Train

Canada

Production: A Tribeca Film (in U.S.) release, in partnership with American Express, of a Jon Goodman Entertainment presentation, in association with 120DB Film, Maple Pictures and Infinity Intl., of a Pembridge Pictures production, in association with Prospero Pictures. Produced by Martin Katz, Larry Mullen Jr., Mary McGuckian. Executive producers, Jon Goodman, Peter Graham, Stephen Hays, Francois Ivernel, Laurie May, James Smith. Co-producers, James Morris, Karen Wookey. Directed, written by Mary McGuckian, based on the film "L'homme du train" written by Patrice Leconte, Claude Klotz.

Crew: Camera (color), Stefan Von Bjorn; editor, Matthew Booth; music, Larry Mullen Jr., Simon Clime; production designer, Jennifer Carroll; costume designer, Melissa Stewart; sound, Bryan Day; assistant director, Tony Thatcher; casting, Sharon Howard-Field. Reviewed at West Oaks Alamo Drafthouse, Houston, Oct. 15, 2011. (In Tribeca Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: With: Donald Sutherland, Larry Mullen Jr., Graham Greene, Tony Nardi, Kate O'Toole, Carlo Rota.

More Film

  • Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel

    'Black Widow': Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Go Head-to-Head in First Footage

    Marvel’s “Black Widow” has only been in production for a month, but studio president Kevin Feige still delivered the goods for fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Filmmakers brought an intense sizzle reel of on-location shots, kicked off by a dazzling and bone-crushing fight sequence between lead Scarlett Johansson and her on-screen sister Florence [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor

    Natalie Portman Returns for 'Thor: Love and Thunder' as Female Thor

    Natalie Portman is coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s no one’s love interest this time around. The Oscar winner will play a female god of thunder in the fourth film from the Chris Hemsworth series, titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Portman hit the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to great [...]

  • Fantastic Four

    New 'Fantastic Four' Movie in Development at Marvel

    Marvel is going back to the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that a new movie based on the superhero group is in the works at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Further details, however, including a release date, were not revealed. It marks the first Fox property for Disney to mine since the [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Mahershala Ali to Star in Marvel's 'Blade' Reboot

    Marvel is rebooting the “Blade” series, and has cast Mahershala Ali to star. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the news at Comic-Con on Saturday as the panel’s big ending surprise. Ali also took the stage at the announcement to massive applause, donning the Blade baseball cap. Wesley Snipes previously played the half-vampire superhero in [...]

  • Doctor Strange

    'Doctor Strange' Sequel Billed as First MCU Horror Film at Comic-Con

    A sequel to “Doctor Strange” was announced as expected on Saturday at Marvel’s Comic-Con panel — what we didn’t see coming was the tone. Director Scott Derrickson said the film, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will mine the original comics and play up “the gothic, the horror.” Derrickson said it will lead [...]

  • Simu Liu Shang-Chi

    Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Finds Its Lead

    Marvel has found its next superhero. The studio announced that Simu Liu has been tapped to star in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” during its Hall H presentation at Comic Con, joining cast member Awkwafina, who was also announced during the presentation. Additionally, Veteran actor Tony Leung has joined the film as [...]

  • Angelina Jolie The Kept

    Marvel Reveals Cast and Plot Details for 'The Eternals'

    “The Eternals” have arrived. The first film announced at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation on Saturday, unarguably the hottest ticket of the weekend, confirmed months of speculation by unveiling its cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Don Lee will star as 35,000 -year-old aliens. “This movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content