Projects in Hollywood need a name attached—script quality and director’s vision and rarely make a project happen until someone that Hollywood trusts to make money joins the project. The Sunset Limited is scripted by the writer of No Country For Old Men, starring Samuel L. Jackson squaring off against Tommy Lee Jones. Who wins in this face-off between two actors loved by so many? Check out our review after the jump.
The Sunset Limited is an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy play. The premise is very simple. Two men, White and Black, sit in an apartment. Black saves White from an attempted suicide. They go back to Black’s apartment and discuss life, death, faith and reason. No action, no weapons, no aliens. Just two actors reacting off each other and digging into a script. Will White head back to jump in front of the train again? Will Black’s faith hold in the heavy despair hanging over White?
Jackson’s Black is a variation on the character that made him famous. Alternately easy going, angry and funny, Black tells stories to try and illustrate his points to White. Black is the protagonist in the script, trying whatever tactics he can to convince White that life is worth living. Jackson’s arguments of faith are compelling without ever going over into full-on preaching. Arguments range from jailhouse stories to coffee discussions as he tries to save White’s life. The movie is faith versus nihilism, pessimism versus optimism.
Jones’s performance is much more subdued. His White has the same skepticism that’s a hallmark of his performances. But it’s damaged and doesn’t have the same bulletproof punch it does in most of his performances. Jones assets some of his power during the arguments and has a more dynamic element to his character. His character is the one in conflict. His character is the one in danger. The story hangs on what he decides to do after he leaves the apartment.
Jones also directed this adaptation. The script is stagey and the direction matches the case. The script owes a lot to scripts like David Mamet’s Oleanna and Sam Shepard’s True West. The movie takes place all inside Black’s rundown apartment. Almost all the staging is shifts of the two characters discussing subjects heavy and light. The blocking does a good job of showing the power shifts between the two.
The features are basic. The disc opens with a commercial for some of HBO Films’ other prestige films. The is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. The director’s commentary is very meta. It features McCarthy, Jones and Jackson talking about a movie featuring Jones and Jackson primarily talking. It can get a little confusing at times.
The Sunset Limited is worth a look for fans of the three principles involved. Tommy Lee Jones shows a different side. Samuel Jackson offers an interesting take on his usual role. McCarthy’s script raises some interesting questions that aren’t easily answered. Expect some good coffee shop discussion after seeing this one.