I Review “The Sunset Limited”
By Mack Rights
It took me a while to see this movie. I’d heard about it while fishing more than a year ago, but even once it was on DVD, the stores didn’t carry it. I had to sign up for one of those DVD-by-mail rackets to get it, but get it I did.
The Sunset Limited is based on Cormac McCarthy’s play consisting of a one-scene conversation between two men in one room. Samuel L. Jackson plays the character listed as “Black,” while Tommy Lee Jones plays “White” (according to IMDB). I take it that the writer was trying get us to see things in black and white, and of course, I am more than happy to oblige.
Black is an older black man who’d been in prison for murder. While in prison, he became a Christian. After prison, he went back to where he came from in the ghetto to help those most in need. In doing so, he gave up the creature comforts such as a TV and a phone because “anything not nailed down” would be stolen by the drug addicts that he’d allow to crash on his couch.
White, on the other hand, is a professor whose head had been jam-packed with all the worldly nonsense a man could take without exploding head first. In fact that’s the reason the whole story takes place. Black caught White trying to commit suicide by jumping in front of The Sunset Limited train in the early morning. Black grabbed his arm and pulled him back up onto the platform, and then he invited White to his apartment, where the play begins.
This play is a conversation between a Christian and an atheist. The Christian has been to the breaking point himself back in prison and during his life before, but he’d been saved by Jesus and the Bible. The atheist however, has learned to hate life due to the meaninglessness of all the things with which he’d come into contact at the academy as a professor. Having read about 100 books a year for 40 years, he’d never read the Bible- an important aspect of the conversation- but he did have excuses for not wanting to. And he gave those excuses, even as he was fully aware that his life and creed, which he’d built around these worldly things, were falling apart.
Black, who saw himself as his brother’s keeper, felt he had no choice whatsoever but to help this man in need. And the conversation, astounding as it was in every way, lasted a couple of short hours that none of us wanted to end. Essentially, Black was trying to introduce White to the Bible and a creed that would keep White’s feet planted on the platform. White however, an atheist who believed that death would bring his lonely mind peace by bringing silence and nothingness, wanted nothing to do with a new creed. He had fallen apart, and he wanted to leave the platform in search of peace in the form of nothingness, which he was sure was there to greet him.
Whether you’re a believer or a non-believer, this conversation is wo
rth listening to. It presents both sides fairly, and makes you th
out things you probably don’t think much about- unless you’re constantly considering
suicide. In that case, this is still a good conversation to listen to. Both these actors were just downright exceptional, and as director, Tommy Lee Jones, deserves great kudos. This little-known movie should be very widely known. Even if you have to crawl over broken glass spread upon burning coals to see this, make sure you do.
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