the sunset limited | movie review

Posted on March 2, 2012


Cormac McCarthy’s books make for great movies. No Country for Old Men and The Road both making bold statements about the human condition. For me, The Sunset Limited is better than both of those – and possibly one of the best performances by two of the movie industries greatest actors. Cormac adapted The Sunset Limited from his own play and Tommy Lee Jones directs himself and Samuel L Jackson in a minimalist movie – one room, two people – with a truly great script. The fact that our two protagonists are billed simply as Black and White, is not just reference to their skin colour, but to their view of life and their beliefs.

White is an atheist professor who wants to kill himself, he’s obviously suffering from severe depression and is of the view that he has nothing to live for. Black is an evangelical ex-con, who believes in Jesus Christ and The Bible and these things give him hope for the world.

The whole story takes place on one evening in Black’s one room run-down apartment. We learn that Black has just saved White from throwing himself under a train, and so we find ourselves here. The two players move around the room discussing God, eternity, salvation, life, death, hope, fear and so on, sharing their different viewpoints and thoughts and beliefs on such things.

There are beautiful touches to this movie though that may go unnoticed. The subtle way that the lighting changes as dawn breaks, the colour of the chair and sofa in the apartment match the colour of the two gentlemen’s shirts, and the beautiful way that the background noise adds to the atmosphere of the city block – arguing neighbours, cars outside, the distant sound kids practicing musical instruments, it’s all very evocative.

This is a movie that begs discussion. Not on how it works as a movie [there’s no doubt it’s a triumph], but on the subjects discussed within its 90 minutes.

I can’t wait to see Cormac’s next screen adaptation.

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