There comes a point in a most thriller films, and the best name for it is “The Point of No Return”, when a character could very easily escape their circumstances – they are presented with an opportunity to explain or provide a warning – but they never seem to take it.
If Juliet had warned Romeo of her play dead routine, the story would have been far less eventful. If Elrond had just pushed Isildur into Mount Doom rather than politely asking him to throw the Ring in, Sauron could have been defeated far earlier. And if Guy Haines had just told the truth, Strangers on a Train would have ended after twenty minutes.
For a short time, I was glad it didn’t. Until it all got a little bit surreal, and Haines’ freedom seemed to hinge on the result of a tennis match, and the climactic moments took place on a fucking merry-go-round. The light-hearted, humorous background threat suddenly tried to become real, but was just silly by comparison. Everybody stopped having a good time in the final act, and I wondered if Guy Haines was thinking, “I should have just told the truth, and none of this would have happened.”
So far, I enjoyed this Hitchcock picture the most. I love films with an impending sense of doom, a feeling of being trapped… But Strangers on a Train didn’t appear to me to be a surreal Kafka-esque kind of film until its final moments, and by then it doesn’t seem exhilerating, it just seems a little absurd. I’d have preferred for the film to start as it meant to go on.