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Movie Review: “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” by Matt Damon


The movie “You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train” by Matt Damon provides a documentary on Howard Zinn’s life as a politician, historian, and renowned activist. Howard is also known for his biographical, cultural, and socioeconomic viewpoints. Before joining the army, Zinn worked as a shipyard laborer in New York and later improved his social status to a teacher and a professor. As a professor, he became an academic rebel and led different demonstrations against social injustices, including racial segregation of the blacks, racism, and miserable living conditions for the black race. In his demonstration, Zinn put in more effort to win against his opponents (Zinn 1:00:10). Generally, the film provides the story of Howard Zinn. Then, later on, he took part in fighting for social change, from his teaching profession to protests against the war. Zinn was a former ambassador in World War II and emerged in the civil rights movement as a powerful voice of social justice.

From the film, it is inspiring how Zinn gives hope and emphasizes the need to work hard toward fulfilling one’s dreams. Moreover, the film addresses the need to help others meet their dreams, and the teachers are a living testimony of helping students excel in their career fields (Zinn 12:19). Later, students appreciate teachers’ efforts through praises and thanksgiving. Moreover, individuals should not be self-centered in fighting for other people’s rights. The concept of optimism over uncertainty helps one to have hope for the future and unknown outcomes. One’s success can be perceived in different dimensions, such as supporting others to win; therefore, success does not have to be a win but also self-fulfillment in helping others win.

The various arguments in the movie include accepting to move in the same direction even when events are headed in deadly positions. This implied that being too hard on yourself can be negative; sometimes, it requires one to take bold steps and be determined to fulfill their dreams (Zinn 22:19). I agree with this argument; success involves risk-taking and optimism about the future. Moreover, the journey of success involves difficulties and gains; nothing comes on a silver platter. Zinn also argues that life is deliberate and a gamble; failure to participate in the play forecloses possible winning chances (Zinn 1:02:16). Therefore, playing the game creates at least a possibility of creating a difference in the world. I support this statement; creating a difference in life has various challenges and factors to overcome. These include insecurity and fear of the different risks likely to be encountered, including rejection from friends and family members. To overcome these factors requires confidence and courage; every challenge in life should be faced with supreme confidence. The game of card used by Zinn signifies the difficult and dirty side of life experiences. Life is like a gamble and poker game that requires confidence. Therefore the life of political engagement requires boldness, optimism, courage, and raising one’s standards above expectations (Zinn 1:02:16). If confidence is applied in every life scenario, risk-taking will be possible. Therefore individuals will create change in the world to be a better place.

Conclusion and Take home message

After watching the film, my take-home message was the dimensions of success. Confidence is paramount; self-motivation and focus are essential in overcoming the risks involved in the route to success. A self-motivated person is a confidant on the path to success, and changing the world does not imply traveling across the world, but it starts from one’s doorstep. Optimism for uncertainty forms the driving force in life.

Work Cited

Zinn Howard. You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train. Directed by Deb Ellis and Denies Mueller, performance by Matt Damon. The film, 2018.


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