Two men, vague acquaintances meet on a train to Marseille. One Giraudeau (Brice) is a successful author of pot-boilers, the other Ben (Cluzet) also an author of thrillers has won critical acclaim but little commercial success. Brice is outwardly successful but is suffering from writers block due to a difficult on-going divorce. Why doesn't he publish Ben's next manuscript under his own name and they split the proceeds, some 200,000 dollars. Oh, there's only one catch, Ben has to kill Brice's wife or she will take the money as part of the divorce settlement. Brice suggests that as crime writers they are the ideal candidates to pull off the perfect murder, especially as there is little to link the two men.
Comparisons with Hitchcock's Stranger's on a Train are obvious but this movie has an altogether more complex moral than crime doesn't pay. But first what a strange coincidence that François Cluzet, whose ex-wife Marie Trintignant was battered to death, is in a movie where he performs a similar act. What will Marie and François's son make of it?
The cinematography, while tipping a hat to Hitchcock and Becker's One Deadly Summer shows many subtle touches. A horrific scene where a woman is beaten to death is viewed through the distorting reflection of a vase. Cluzet's walk down the steps of the Marseille railway station and cut to him entering a red painted room are like his descent into hell. Then there is the acceptance of food from the plate of the woman he will eventually kill.
Of the two leads, Giraudeau's acting is superb considering his recent serious illness and Cluzet is on-form as well.
<*** attention slight spoiler ***> In the end it is this unlikely and reluctant assassin who proves most cool headed while the people surrounding him descend into their own personal torments. A surprising and horrific ending leaves you wondering whether Ben was really happier before his fateful meeting with Brice when events started to spin out of his control.