“What should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us, open and unshaped?” Offering a worst-case answer to its hero’s question, Night Train to Lisbon keeps 111 minutes of that time unshaped with a numbingly slack, would-be romantic/political thriller. A Swiss classics teacher, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), saves a young mystery woman from diving off a bridge on his way to school and, upon finding a book with stilted existential questions in her coat pocket, takes off instantly for Lisbon to solve the fate of its unknown author. The writer, it’s revealed by a gallery of senior dullards (portrayed by bygone stars from Charlotte Rampling to Christopher Lee, all with stagy Iberian accents), was a local physician (Jack Huston) and key member of the resistance that ultimately toppled Portugal’s long-running dictatorship in the early 1970s. In flashbacks, perilous political subversion is fraught with all the tension of book-club meetings, while in the present, self-diagnosed “boring” Raimund gains new perspective from a woman who prescribes him new glasses. (The optometrist helps him to truly see, see?) Director Bille August did similarly dreadful things to Chilean unrest 20 years ago in The House of the Spirits, which at least had the camp value of Vincent Gallo torturing Winona Ryder; the dramatic beats here are so bland as to be nearly undetectable, even in Huston’s saintly doc performing an emergency dinner-table tracheotomy on his sister. While Raimund tracks down the freedom-fighting dream girl who aided the revolution with her photographic memory (Mélanie Laurent then, Lena Olin now), his phone rings with repeated appeals to return to his Bern classroom, and they go painfully unheeded until Night Train to Lisbon staggers to its protracted, soporific end.
- Wrekin Hill Entertainment
- 111 min
- Bille August
- Greg Latter, Ulrich Hermann
- Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Mélanie Laurent, Martina Gedeck, August Diehl, Tom Courtenay, Bruno Ganz, Lena Olin
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: