A winning formula that once again works well

Quite simply, if you’ve ever seen a Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited isn’t going to spring any real surprises on you. Present and correct are many of his hallmarks; a tale of family dysfunction, the long takes that sweep from one scene to another and back again, the regular collaborators, the classy slow-motion, the vivid, almost dreamlike use of colour, the retro soundtrack, the overall quirkiness… Yet while we have seen enough of Anderson’s work for these traits to seem familiar, perhaps overly so, it’s a winning formula that once again works well in The Darjeeling Limited.

Anderson’s humour is put to a more structured use than in the fascinating, if messy The Life Aquatic. It can be ironic, surreal or surprisingly straight-laced, but it’s inspired enough to work on almost every occasion. When the tone hits a more serious edge, things aren’t quite so solid. The film’s most kinetic scene is close to perfect and almost a surprise, but a sense of sentimentality threatens an overspill into mawkishness as our oddball heroes finally grasp a sense of what is important in life. It’s a minor weakness and one pretty much flooded by the strength of Anderson’s idiosyncratic style.

Much like The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums before it, The Darjeeling Limited is great entertainment but lacks the consistency needed to make it a bona fide classic. But Anderson will get there in time, especially as the wealth of his visuals is almost matched by his ability to express the undercurrents of the unspoken love, bubbling tension and hidden bitterness that can pervade family life. And there’s no harm waiting for that classic when films such as this are brilliant and individualistic.

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