“The Sunset Limited” opens in Black’s apartment with the two men sitting at a small dinner table in the kitchen. Here, Black digs into White’s brain to find out why he wanted to take that dive that would end his life. He also asks him questions about his beliefs and values. White doesn’t seem to have any personal beliefs or values. He doesn’t really have any friends other than a guy he grabs lunch with at his work every now and then.
Black converted to Christianity after his time in jail. He asks White – since he’s a college professor – how many books he has read. White gives an estimable answer of 4,000 over the course of his lifetime. His favorite book is “War and Peace,” but Black asks why he hasn’t read the “best book.” Black is referring to “The Bible.”
The movie pans out into Black’s deep, religious beliefs and goes into why he served time in prison and what happened in prison. While White sits and listens to his stories, he must think about what all this means. He tries to get up and leave several times, but he is drawn back into Black’s discussion. White keeps telling Black the only thing out there for him and the only thing he believes in is the Sunset Limited. It will take him to the only thing he believes he has left to do, which is to die. There seems to be nothing of value for him and nothing else he feels he can do. Black thinks there is more and tries to pursue White to think about life and God.
McCarthy took his own two-person play and wrote the screenplay to fit cinematic standards. How does a story that contains only two characters and one setting keep people interested? It’s all in the dialogue and the acting. McCarthy is the best choice for writing a screenplay like this; Jones and Jackson are the best choices for these two roles.
Their dialogue is not only theological and philosophical, but it’s also humorous. McCarthy is able to shed some comedic value into a deep discussion to keep the viewer interested.
I’ve seen parts of this movie before, which peaked my interest and I finally saw the whole movie. It is a very interesting set-up between an atheistic professor who desires to commit suicide and a felon murderer born again Christian. Makes one think, on either side of the issue. Both pose very powerful arguments from their positions.