VOD film review: Night Train to Lisbon
James R | On 24, Oct 2014
Director: Billie August
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurent, Jack Huston
Watch Night Train to Lisbon online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV
It’s never a good sign when a film’s lead character openly apologises for being boring. But that is sadly all too accurate for Night Train to Lisbon, a movie that chugs slowly to its underwhelming destination like a sleeper to Stoke-on-Trent.
The film, based on Pascal Mercier’s novel of the same name, stars Jeremy Irons as a Swiss professor, Raimund, who one day saves the life of a woman about to jump off a bridge. She soon disappears, leaving him with a head full of unanswered questions and a book, written by a man called Amadeu do Prado. He goes on the hunt, tracking down the bookstore where it came from and, eventually, ending up on the titular route to the Portuguese capital.
Raimund slowly pieces together the story behind the memoir, via interviews with his sister (Charlotte Rampling) and her uncle, João (Tom Courtenay). At which point the inevitable flashbacks pull into the station, revealing Amadeu’s life in the resistance against the dictatorship rule of Salazar.
These star an impressive line-up: Jack Huston, who was brilliant in Two Jacks, is charming as the young doctor, while The Counterfeiters’ August Diehl is strong as his friend, Jorge (the adult version of whom is played by Bruno Ganz). Melanie Laurent, meanwhile, is typically enchanting as Estefania, with whom Amadeu is smitten. The senior ensemble are equally strong, with Courtenay recalling past tortures with hand-quivering shock and Irons’ plummy voice doing its best to hold your interest.
But while the individual conversations between the cast work well enough, director Billie August’s repetitive hopping back and forth saps any momentum from the tale. Unsubtle dialogue from Greg Latter and Ulrich Herrmann’s script only squanders the tension further. “The pharmacy – why do you leave the lights on at night?” asks Irons, in one of the movie’s more scintillating exchanges. In another, he explains to a nurse that being in a home reminds Jorge of being in prison – something Courtenay has already pointed out between flashbacks.
“Sorry,” Raimund apologises to his date when asked to dance. “You know, boring.”