The Man on the Train (2011) stars Donald Sutherland as an overly talky, seemingly optimistic, retired professor living in an idealized small town (Orangeville) where doors and gates need not be locked, and Larry Mullen, Jr., as a man who arrives in town with plans to rob the bank. While “The Professor” may not be a compulsive talker, those who find people who talk too much tedious will find him to be especially so. Expounding on the past, literature, and his many disappointments in himself, the Professor utters ten thousand words to every one of the Thief’s, making the viewer that much more appreciative of the new man in town, and making him seem—through his reticence to share reminiscences—the more interesting of the two characters.
As the men become acquainted, they indulge in fantasies about living each other’s lives. The Professor, who has lived by his mother’s rules of propriety for so many years that they were habit once she died wonders about being the silent stranger, a tough guy, or a man who has “had” a lot of women. The Thief begins to enjoy the comforts of life—the posh home filled with art and artifacts, comfortable slippers—and harbors a desire to improve his intellectual standing.
The Thief is not totally committed to the bank robbery—he has a bad feeling—but with pressure from his partners he decides to go through with it. The Professor is scheduled for a heart bypass the same time as the robbery is to take place, and scenes alternate between the robbery and the surgery, as each man approaches his destiny. The Man on the Train is a more-talk-than-action remake of the French film, L’homme du train. It seems to take a long time to get nowhere, but maybe that’s the point.
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