Movie Review of Strangers on a Train
The film Strangers on a Train is a study in irony, coincidence, and good versus evil. The film’s plot revolves around a chance meeting between a famous tennis player, Guy Haines (Haines) and a pampered, spoiled, mama’s boy named Bruno Antony (Antony). It is obvious from the beginning that Antony is mentally unbalanced. It is Haines’ misfortune to run into Antony. While watching this film, many questions come to mind.
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The first question is regarding the meeting of Haines and Antony. The meeting between Haines and Antony appears to be coincidental. Is it? Antony recognizes Haines and tries to engage Haines in conversation. Haines seems to want to be left alone. Did Antony really run into Haines by chance or has Antony been studying and stalking Haines? Was Antony going to pitch his crazy idea of switching murders to just anyone or had he carefully selected Haines for this purpose? Did he know Haines would be on this train at this time? Antony knew about Haines’ life including his problems with his estranged wife and Haines’ new girlfriend, the Senator’s daughter. It seems logical to conclude that Antony has studied Haines and selects him intentionally. Antony may have even known Haines’ schedule just from following the news or Antony may have gone to some trouble to gain access to Haines’ schedule.
Haines seems to quickly sense Antony’s instability and tries to brush Antony off but Antony does not give up. Antony has a mission. Antony intends to succeed in drawing Haines into his plans. Haines never actually agrees to swap the murders. What sane person would? In fact, during the conversation between Haines and Antony, Haines gets agitated and angrily walks away from Antony. Haines is in such a hurry to leave Antony’s company that he leaves behind his cigarette lighter, which Antony notices. Antony decides to keep the lighter.
The second question is in regards to the lighter. It seems coincidental that Haines leaves his lighter behind after the disturbing conversation with Antony. Instead of being coincidental, perhaps Haines left the lighter behind intentionally as a means of saying he agrees to the plan even though he verbally says no. However, leaving the lighter behind gives Antony evidence and power over him so it was accidental and it is just pure irony that he left the lighter.
Another area of irony in the film is Bruno Antony’s name. When viewers think of the name Bruno, they expect a large, muscular, tough-guy type. Instead, Antony is of slight build and appears slightly effeminate. Antony has never worked a day in his life and his Mother spoils him and thinks he can do no wrong. The relationship between Antony and his Mother explains much about his mental problems. Since Antony’s family has never made him pay the consequences of his actions, he believes he can literally get away with murder.
Antony is evil or at least insane since he believes he should not have to pay any penalty for committing murder. Since Antony can look Miriam Haines right in the eye as he kills her, this is more proof of how evil Antony is. In fact, Haines tries to do the right thing by warning Antony’s father that Antony has a plan to kill him. Ironically, it is Antony, not Antony’s father, who is waiting for Haines when he tries to talk to Antony’s father. Haines can be considered the good person to counterbalance the bad person, Antony.
Haines may seem to be the good person but his good person image is slightly blurred. For example, while he is still married to his wife, he is dating Anne Morton (Morton). This makes Morton’s reputation questionable as well even though she is portrayed as a beautiful, sweet, kind, innocent woman. Morton is another character where good and bad are mixed together. Morton’s father is a Senator but he is not worried about his family’s reputation being ruined by his daughter dating a married man. In fact, the Senator likes Haines immensely. This says something about the Senator not being all good or all bad. Perhaps the lesson that the director, Alfred Hitchcock, is trying to teach us in the movie is that we are all a mixture of good and bad.
The film Strangers on a Train keeps viewers on their toes as they wonder what will happen next. Will Antony be caught? Will Haines be framed for murder? This suspense is what Hitchcock films are all about. In addition, Hitchcock makes viewers think about the issues of irony, coincidence, and good versus evil in this movie and maybe even in our own lives. Perhaps viewers will think twice about starting up a conversation with a stranger on the subway, bus, airplane, or train.
Hitchcock, A. (Producer & Director). (1951). Strangers on a Train. [Motion picture]. United
States: Warner Bros. Pictures.