Strangers on a Train Reviews
This is a fantastic thriller. The master of suspense unravels a compelling tale of a psychopath manipulating an average Joe into a complex murder plot. The one complaint I had with the film is that the characters are too black and white. There's never a chance that the "good guy" will yield to the "bad guy's" intentions, which would represent of a blurring of the "good" and "evil" lines and make for a more interesting character study.
Overall, with Hitch's incredible eye for glittering set pieces, human psychology, and gripping suspense, this is one of the best suspense films of all time.
The plot is rather typical stuff: a chance encounter between two men who have a problem with someone they'd like to murder come up with a plan where each man commits the other's murder, leaving them motiveless and the other person free and clear.
Of course, nothing is that simple, and unhealthy attachments, miscommunications, and psychoses lead to a tense and thrilling cat and mouse game between the two gentlemen, who first met, as simply nothing more than strangers on a train.
The premise is nothing extremely great, but the execution is where this film truly shines. Loaded up with lots of symbols, themes, and motifs involving doubles, duality, light and dark, this is a gorgeous film that can easily be studied and analyzed for quite some time. And, true to the themes, there are two version of the film: the original theatrical cut, and a slightly longer British pre-release version. The big difference is that the British version is a little more overt in showing the homoerotic undertones and just how psychotic one of the leads is. Either version is worth your time, as I really felt neither edged out the other.
The performances, especially by Robert Walker, and tremendous. The cinematography and camera work are absolutely gorgeous, with a crisp black and white that evokes the finest of film noirs. There's some truly brilliant moments as well, whether it is the memorable climax or a murder scene shown from the reflection of the victim's glasses. That shot alone is one they probably show in film classes, and it truly is a marvelous moment.
All in all of course you need to see this! It's Hitch, it's suspenseful, it's artistically stunning, and as far as thrill rides go, it's quite a rush.
Strangers' centerpiece is the strange duality between Guy Haines and Bruno. Its important to note that Guy is innocent of actual murder but not the intent to murder. Even girlfriend Anne (Ruth Roman) is suspicious of Guy after their phone conversation. Bruno assumes a lot, and Guy is guilty of omission more than commission. Bruno is the dark, "other side" of Guy, the tennis star who "does things." Ironically it is Bruno who actually does things. They carry on an implicit homosexual courtship throughout.
Just a quick note on other actors/characters: Laura Elliot as Miriam and Hitchcock's daughter Patricia as Barbara Morton are better actors and more interesting than the more famous Ruth Roman. Roman looks the part of senator's daughter/girlfriend Anne Morton but is too wooden. She represents upper class decorum but is not sexy. The point is that she's got the morals and class that Guy's wife lacks, and this contrast works well in the film.
Strangers is well crafted at every level, and the suspense screams to a stunning climax where Bruno almost succeeds in pinning the blame on Guy before his brutal death. The destruction of the carousel in which Bruno dies and the truth is revealed may be my favorite Hitchcockian climax. (Norman Bates' mother is pretty good too!)
Visuals I will never forget:
-Bruno laying back in the train seat with his cigar
-Bruno's growing shadow in the Tunnel of Love
-Bruno waiting at the capitol, black silhouette on white pillars
-Bruno watching tennis: all other characters turning their head with the play, and Bruno staring straight ahead, at Guy
-When Guy turns on the light and finds Bruno in the bed - jump-worthy!
I've said Bruno enough, so let me praise the acting: Robert Walker took over the film, and Farley Granger, as Guy, was more innocent than Jimmy Stewart without being cartoony but carried a real upper-crust outlook convincingly all the while. From the opening proposition to the stunning merry-go-round accident - a real man really crawled under a real running merry-go-round, by the way - this one's a classic: essential viewing by any standard.
A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder...a theory that he plans to implement.
Alfred Hitchcock has made many brilliant thrillers, and many of them have gone on to be hailed as some of the greatest films of all time. One film that tends to get somewhat lost under the Vertigo's and the Psycho's is this film; Strangers on a Train, the most compelling film that Hitchcock ever made. The story follows Guy Haines, a tennis player and a man soon to be wed to the Senator's daughter, if he can get a divorce from his current wife. One day, on the way to see his wife, he meets the mentally unstable Bruno Anthony aboard a train and soon gets drawn into a murder plot that he can neither stop nor stall; and one that could ultimately cost him his life.
The conversation aboard the train between Bruno and Guy is one of the cinema's most intriguing and thought provoking of all time. What if two people "swapped" murders, thus resolving themselves of all suspicion of the crime, and rendering their motive irrelevant? Could this truly be the perfect murder? What makes this film all the more frightening is that the events that Guy is lead into could happen to any, normal everyday person. Everyone has someone they'd like to get rid of, so what if you met an insane man aboard a train that does your murder for you and then forces you to do his? The chances of it happening are unlikely, but it's the idea that anyone could be a murderer that is central to the message of Strangers on a Train; and in this situation, anyone could.
Is there any actor on earth that could have portrayed the character of Bruno Anthony any better than Robert Walker? The man was simply born for the part. He manages to capture just the right mood for his character and absolutely commands every scene he is in. The character of Bruno is a madman, but he's not a lunatic; he's a calculating, conniving human being and Robert Walker makes the character believable. His performance is extremely malevolent, and yet understated enough to keep the character firmly within the realms of reality. Unfortunately, Robert Walker died just one year after the release of Strangers on a Train, and I believe that is a great loss to cinema. Nobody in the cast shines as much as Walker does, but worth mentioning is his co-star Farley Granger. Granger never really impresses that much, but his performance is good enough and he holds his own against Walker. Also notable about his performance is that he portrays his character as a very normal person; and that is how it should be. Ruth Roman is Guy's wife to be. She isn't really in the film enough to make a lasting impression, but she makes the best of what she has. Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia, takes the final role of the four central roles as Barbara, the sister of Guy's fiancé. She is suitably lovely in this role, and she tends to steal a lot of the scenes that she is in.
Alfred Hitchcock's direction is always sublime, and it is very much so in this film. There is one shot in particular, that sees the murder of the film being committed in the reflection of a pair of sunglasses. This is an absolutely brilliant shot, and one that creates a great atmosphere for the scene. Hitchcock's direction is moody throughout, and very much complies with the film noir style. The climax to the film is both spectacular and exciting, and I don't think that anyone but Hitchcock could have pulled it off to the great effect that it was shown in this film. It's truly overblown, and out of turn from the rest of the movie; but it works. There is a reason that Hitchcock is often cited as the greatest director of all time, and the reason for that is that he doesn't only use the script to tell the film's story, but he also uses to camera to do so as well. Strangers on a Train is one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Its story is both intriguing and thought provoking, and is sure to delight any fan of cinema. A masterpiece.
It's the perfect murder. Two strangers meet, and each kill off the victim of the other. There's no motive linking the killer to the crime, so theoretically the police would never have a reason to suspect what actually happened. Of course, even the perfect plan can fail when one of the participants has no intention of actually going through with the crime, and the other is mentally disturbed.
We've seen Hitchcock tackle "the perfect murder" before in Dial M for Murder, and it's no real surprise that both movies deal with the disastrous results of a crime that turns out to be not nearly so perfect. I also ended up liking both movies to about the same degree.
Strangers on a Train does one thing extremely well, and that's suspense. It may be one of the most suspenseful Hitchcock movies that I've seen, and that's saying something. But unlike my favorite Hitchcock movies, it doesn't have much to offer beyond that near-constant tension. I didn't find the characters particularly interesting, and the story didn't do much for me. The merry-go-round scene at the end was incredibly impressive, but it probably will be quite a while before I revisit this one. With that said, an average Hitchcock movie is still worth seeing at least once.