The Darjeeling Limited
Bill Murray is not the star of The Darjeeling Limited—in fact, he only has a couple of minutes of screen time, and never speaks a word—but his face is one of the first things you see, and it sets the tone for everything that follows. His ingenious cameo places him as a nameless businessman, nervously peering over his shoulder as he rides in the back of a speeding taxi, apparently hoping to outrun something sinister, though we know not what.
When he jumps out of the cab he is at a train station, and he sprints in mad pursuit of his departing locomotive, coming just short of catching it. He is left standing on the platform, while the camera—and the audience—departs with the train. It's a brilliant scene because it epitomizes everything that's unique about the cinema of Wes Anderson. It's funny, in a very dry, deadpan kind of way. It's film-literate, calling to mind similar moments in any number of classic thrillers or detective flicks. And, in its own strange, self-referential way, it's an effective visual metaphor; Murray may be Anderson's favorite actor, but this is not his story, and, for the most part, he'll be sitting this one out.
But let's not overlook the obvious: The train is in motion, and so is its director. Though it bears most of the stylistic hallmarks of his other four films, Darjeeling is just different enough from Anderson's other movies that it might cause his detractors to pause and rethink some of their criticisms—and to acknowledge that, in many ways, this might be his most assured and sophisticated movie yet. More than any other Wes Anderson film, this one is full of motion and change—it's a road-trip movie in many respects, not tied down to a static location the way The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic were. And though he's often accused of emphasizing visual style to the point of draining any feeling, Darjeeling boasts some of the most powerful emotions of any of his films yet.
As with any Anderson film, this one is about estranged family members—in this case, three brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year, ever since their father's funeral. Now, brother Francis Whitman (Owen Wilson) has called Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) to meet him for a trip—on the train called the Darjeeling Limited—through India, a "spiritual journey" that he hopes will bring them back together again.
It's not long before tension begins to grow, with the brothers distrusting one another, keeping secrets, making accusations, and failing to communicate in just about every possible way. Even the enthusiastic Francis ultimately admits that their "spiritual journey" hasn't quite panned out. And as more of their backstory is revealed, it becomes clearer and clearer that all three brothers are damaged, badly in need of one another. Francis is literally damaged, heavily bandaged after an accident; Peter is expecting his first child, but is in anguish because he does not think the marriage will last; and Jack is stuck in the middle of a hurtful relationship. All three are still mourning for their father, and confused by the fact that their mother (Anjelica Huston) failed to show up for the funeral.