there’s very little to say about great films, even if you try to be picky — and this is a great film. part of it is just that great hitchcockian motifs make appearance here: the quietly subversive female character who behaves like a typical damsel in distress, who is dismissed by most but who is deeply self-confident and who sees a truth that no one else does; the psychoanalytical references (which are invoked in a very sophisticated way here; hitchcock is at once celebratory and critical of it); the deeply humanistic and even ethical undertones; the wonderful twists etc.
but a huge part of it is this film’s own singular charm: the two not-so-romantic leads are often coy and obnoxious to each other, the various supporting characters have rich, unarticulated backgrounds, the dialogue is uncharacteristically crisp and funny (that is, in comparison to his more classic films like rear window, vertigo, psycho etc.), and there’s an overarching sense of absurdity to everything.
and in this way it makes sense that this was one of hitchcock’s last english films before his more critically-acclaimed, classic american run: the film at once celebrates (the good guys are uniformly english) and denounces (the good guys are also often cynical, self-important — which leads to a rather violent, stark death in one case — self-absorbed, xenophobic, and are often monolingual — as opposed to the other multilingual europeans on the train) englishness, as though hitchcock is gathering all his truest opinions about english culture and stuffing them into one film as a fond farewell to a country he loves and understands a little too well.
for me, this is a really pleasant side of hitchcock (i had only been acquainted with his classics before), and just a wonderful experience.