Based on Martin Amis's 1997 novel Night Train, it spoils nothing for me to say how well the inter-blend of crime and post-quantum physics serves the outcome. And while Schrodinger's Cat perhaps haunts the narrative a fraction too frequently, the black holes and multiple universes weave a spell that blends well with visual traces reflecting the New Orleans of the film's setting.
But there is no cashing in on the kind of scenic scoring of New Orleans streetscapes that could have milked, but would have marred the focus and integrity of the film. It's in the mood that New Orleans is evoked, and in the crime, with just an occasional glimpse of the French Quarter.
Intricate and profound, gentle and riveting, the film is a triumph of pace, conveying the deep bond between director (Carol Morley) and main character Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) through which that pace and rhythm have been orchestrated.
For a lover of crime novels, another aspect of the film's uniqueness is how much honour it pays to a novel's capacity to interweave elements and to reverence internal moods and states as well as external clues and discoveries. It centres this, too, on the psychic and sometimes near-psychotic insights and understandings of the central detective. In these many ways its translation of novel to film surpasses, in my view, so many attempts at that conversion, and adds significantly to what the novel had to offer. And like all good crime tales, it keeps you gripped, unfolding its secrets only slowly, yet inclusively.
But with all that detail, I have told you nothing, really, of the plot, which centres on the corpse of a female Professor of Physics, found in the observatory where she worked and taught. A range of murder suspects includes the African American Professor, Duncan J Reynolds (Jonathan Majors), who was her lover; and who, when questioned exhibits a burst of sudden violence.
Fine performances are offered by the well-known actors Toby Jones, whose presence in the observatory spreads an ugly and unsettling vibe; and James Caan, who is not immediately recognisable in his brooding portrayal of the father of the victim.
And then there is Jackie Weaver, the victim's mother. As ever, Weaver is able to embody a complex space that few could convey without blurring and reducing it. Instead, she lights up and inhabits a character who, without her, might have remained opaque, or simply squashed. And that would have been greatly to the detriment of the film's achievement; so, a triumph of casting, here.
The context, the colours, the shifting moods constantly challenge one's engagement. Other than that, I only want to say, don't miss this film, because they are blowing no trumpets for themselves, and therefore they may get scant coverage and attention.
And that would be a vast shame.
Definitely a special film.