Movie review: Night Train to Lisbon

By Peter Calder

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Jeremy Irons in Night Train To Lisbon.
Jeremy Irons in Night Train To Lisbon.

At one point in this dreary and portentous thriller, Irons' character, a dessicated classicist for whom leather elbow patches might have been invented, remarks that his wife left him because she thought he was boring.

I'm with the wife on this one, although I have to question her judgment in marrying him in the first place. Raimund Gregorius, who teaches at a high school in Bern (but speaks like an Oxford don) is on the way to work one day when he saves a woman from jumping from a bridge.

As is standard practice with an attempted suicide, he takes her to his Latin class and invites her to sit in the back even though she's dripping wet.

Maybe she hates classics; maybe she found him boring too. Either way, she slips out, leaving behind her red coat, in the pocket of which is a book by a Portuguese poet, Amadeu de Prado. In the book (stay with me here) is a ticket on a train to Lisbon that leaves in 15 minutes.

I ask you: what would any classics teacher do? Naturally, he ... well, I shouldn't spoil the surprise.

The book's banal musings inexplicably entrance Gregorius and he resolves to track down the poet. It comes as no surprise that he uncovers a history of drama, romance and deceit stretching back to the era of Portugal's Franco-like dictator Salazar.

Perhaps this made for good reading in the apparently successful source novel, but it adds up to fearsomely tedious tosh on screen. A stellar cast and the presence of the veteran director August (Pelle the Conqueror) cannot rescue it.


Stars: 2/5
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurent, Jack Huston, Martina Gedeck, Tom Courtenay, Lena Olin
Director: Bille August
Running time: 111 mins
Rating: M (violence, sex scenes)
Verdict: Lame and hackneyed resistance drama

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