FILM RATING: 3 stars
HBO’s new made-for-TV film The Sunset Limited (2011) starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson is a fascinating and fresh look at just pure philosophical, spiritual, and psychological conversation. Much like HBO’s outstanding TV series In Treatment, starring Gabriel Byrne. Directed by Tommy Lee Jones, The Sunset Limited is a VERY simple, almost theatrical, concept. It’s two men, Black (played by Jackson) and White (played by Jones), in a room talking about life. White is a professor who was saved from Black earlier in the day when he was trying to commit suicide. Black is a reformed ex-con who was in the “jailhouse”, as he likes to call it, for murder. Black believes in God and the Bible. White doesn’t. Over the course of this 90-minute movie, Black and White go back and forth at each other, throwing out crisp, intelligent, yet hard to comprehend dialogue like you’d expect from writer Aaron Sorkin in The Social Network or on The West Wing. While much of what was said is wrapped in riddles and hard-to-digest ideas, The Sunset Limited really gets you thinking. It’s a the kind of film I’ll have to revisit a few times over the years to really get. Much like the internal struggle we all have in our own heads, Black and White battle back-and-forth and don’t end with any real answers. They just end the conversation for the day.
Both Jones and Jackson give very good performances here, really showcasing their acting and dialogue abilities. I wish there was more emotional depth to these characters and to the film itself, but this is really just a head game and its best to not expect anything more. The production design, lighting, and cinematography are interesting and give the film a nice gritty context for Black and White to play out. I like that they don’t go anywhere and that both actors are forced to make things happen in this one-room set. I give The Sunset Limited 3 stars and suggest you check it out on HBO now, or down the road on Blu-ray/DVD.