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:: Night Train To Lisbon

For once this year it is not a best telling teen fiction novel that is getting its treatment on the big screen. No, this time it is the meandering best seller “Night Train To Lisbon” by author Pascal Marcier, a book that in literature circles has been receiving as much cudos as Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”. Certainly some book worms seem to have the same excited anticipation around them as their loved favourite is set for cinema release. Just like we normally find with the teen fiction films the studio behind “Night Train To Lisbon” has set up getting together an all star cast. Director Bille August gets to direct a cast of pure international flavour with the likes of Jeremy Irons, Bruno Ganz, Charlotte Rampling and Christopher Lee all part of the flock, but even that acting talent doesn’t stop “Night Train To Lisbon” from becoming a tedious watch.

The film’s central character is Swiss lecturer Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), a man whose now defunct marriage seems to have left him a shell of a man he once was. Now he seems to have no dreams and purely exists for the literature that he reads. He is so lonely he even plays chess alone. However his life gets back a little bit of excitement when he rescues a mysterious lady in red (Sarah Spale-Buhlmann) from throwing herself off a bridge. But then she to disappears leaving him with a book full of the philosophy of a Porteguese doctor named Amadeu de Prado (Jack Huston). The mystery baits Raimund completely and he decides to turn his back on his mundane life and travels to Portigual to try and work not only who this lady in red was but also more about the mysterious Amadeu whose writing Raimund is completely in love with now.

Soon Raimund is putting together the pieces and learning that Amadeu lived an exciting life alongside his friends Jorge (August Diehl/Bruno Ganz) and Estefania (Melanie Laurent/Lena Olin) and that there were very much involved in a resistence against that they believed would free their people from the grip of a vicious dictator.

Just to make life even more confusing Raimund he suddenly finds himself having feelings for a friendly optician, Mariana (Martina Gedeck) who helps him on his journey by introducing him to her grumpy old uncle, a man named Joao (Tom Courtenay) who whiles his days away in a home that completely bores him.

The best way to describe “Night Train To Lisbon” is a frustrating watch. This seems to be one case where the novel hasn’t transferred itself to the screen very well at all. The meandering journey the story takes may have made this a great Sunday afternoon read but on screen it possesses the ability to become very tedious to watch, so bad actually it actually manages to completely sap itself of any suspense at all. This should have been a film as suspenseful as “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” but despite the basis of a good story it never ever reaches those dizzying heights.

Director, Bille August also does no favours to the film by delivering some scenes of ‘blah-blah’ dialogue that bog the film down and hardly move the film along at all. Then there are also some very clumsy continuity gaffs in the film such as very early on in the film when it seems to be night at a train station but day at a school.

Perhaps the biggest problem with “Night Train To Lisbon” though is that the screenplay doesn’t offer any bite to its actors at all… a real waste when you consider the talent that the cast is made up of. Jeremy Irons just seems to breeze through his role and aside from a few times when Raimund gets flustered offers very little emotion at all. Meanwhile people with the talents of Charlotte Rampling and Christopher Lee are massively underused in their roles and you can only wonder why they bothered signing on in the first place.

“Night Train To Lisbon” is a slow burn to watch and the fact that it never really seems to move out of first gear makes you wonder whether or not it deserves it’s title of thriller at all. You do have your odd suspenseful moment but for the most part the film labours along and will only really provide interest for those that were completely in love with novel.