John Locke could have been describing Tommy Lee Jones’ new HBO adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s relentless 2006 play, The Sunset Limited. If you think that’s a reductive reading, check the script. Jones’ suicidal college professor is simply named White, while his savior, a man of faith played by Samuel L. Jackson (and a spiritual cousin to Jules Winnfield), is called Black. Essentially a 90-minute conversation in a Washington Heights tenement taking place in the immediate aftermath of White’s suicide attempt at a subway station, The Sunset Limited plays like a talky condensation of McCarthy’s great theme: How do we create meaningful lives in a chaotic world where God is silent and death is inescapable? But instead of a Western, Southern Gothic, or post-apocalyptic novel, he gave as a verbose, urban-set play, something Bergman would like (if Uncle Ingmar had had an interest in anyone but the haute bourgeoisie).
Strong reveiws for tonight’s HBO premiere of Cormac McCarthy’s Sunset Limited starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Tommy Lee himself.
Subject matter doesn’t get more profound than life and death, but, thanks to McCarthy’s writing and the two veteran actors, we’re completely drawn into the discussion, so much so that we’re taken by surprise as McCarthy careful injects another possible interpretation of the play’s set-up.
Both performances are terrific… Jones looks and acts appropriately tired. It would be easy to give in to the temptation to make White simply bitter and empty, but by keeping the character human, Jones makes his despair even more profound… Jackson may have the slightly more difficult job in that he has to avoid self-righteousness playing the “good guy,” but he more than meets that challenge. His is that TV rarity, a tour de force performance, rippling with energy, nuance, humor and passion. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Watching TCM’s tribute to 1939 today and noticing Thomas Mitchell played a key supporting role in every single movie that year. Struck by the fact that — as formidable as they are — both Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson shine brightest when they energize supporting characters.