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TRANSSIBERIAN (director/writer: Brad Anderson; screenwriter: Will Conroy; cinematographer: Xavi Giménez; editor: Jaume Martí; music: Alfonso Vilallonga; cast: Woody Harrelson (Roy), Emily Mortimer (Jessie), Kate Mara (Abby), Eduardo Noriega (Carlos), Thomas Kretschmann (Myassa), Ben Kingsley (Grinko); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Julio Fernández; First Look International; 2008-Spain/Germany/ U.K./Lithuania-in English with some Russian/Spanish.)
“The story itself takes a few bloodcurdling turns off the tracks, with well-played action sequences.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Indie filmmaker Brad Anderson (“Happy Accidents”/”Session 9″/”Next Stop Wonderland”) directs this nightmarish suspense story, falling into the genre of terror-train thrillers, that seemingly makes travel to a foreign country for Americans a dangerous adventure. It’s written by Will Conroy, who shoots to get more out of the drug story through use of socio-political shadings and haunting confrontations but leaves most of the characters undeveloped.

A naïve American couple, hardware store owner Roy (Woody Harrelson) and amateur photographer Jessie (Emily Mortimer), take the scenic route home to end their church-based humanitarian teaching mission in Asia, as they board the cramped Trans-siberian Express from Beijing to Moscow (this is no luxury train). During the journey they converse with their cabin mates, a dashing thirtysomething Spaniard named Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and a withdrawn American 20-year-old runaway named Abby (Kate Mara). Talkative small-town rube Roy accidentally gets left behind at a stopover and the panicky introverted Jessie travels onto the next stop to wait for her husband but unfortunately gets involved with the cunning Carlos. He and Abby turn out to be mules (drug smugglers), and Jessie mistakenly goes touring the wintry Siberian countryside alone with Carlos to take pictures of a church and things turn ugly. Jessie returns from the snowy woods without Carlos and when Roy finally appears, the middle-class couple board the next train on their way to Moscow. They now find themselves in great danger, as they are in the company of a corrupt and sinister English-speaking Russian narcotics detective, Ilya Grinko (Ben Kingsley), who came aboard the train to investigate a drug-related murder.

The acting honors go to Mortimer, the only developed character in the film, who when in trouble reverts back to being the untrustworthy character she was in the past before her marriage. Her complex characterization of a now decent person caught in a bewildering moral dilemma, is delivered with credibility. The story itself takes a few bloodcurdling turns off the tracks, with well-played action sequences.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”