Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer
Director: Brad Anderson
Genres: Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are the perfect American couple traveling from Beijing to Moscow on the legendary Trans-Siberian Express train. The two strike a bond with another couple, Carlos (Eduardo N... more »
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Solid Casting and Characters but Weak Plot Derails this Tran
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 08/30/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This one grabbed my attention when I read about it in the New York Times last month. The article made it sound like it might rival Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train or Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Well it doesn't. Not even close. Granted it does feature exotic Transsiberian locales from Beijing to Moscow, a train ride full of mystery and suspense, and the work of a set of top-notch actors. Unfortunately, everything that is attractive about this film is derailed by a script that takes one too many unlikely plot turns. So, instead of getting a suspense filled Strangers on a Train or an elegantly paced Murder on the Orient Express, we get just another Hostel or Turistas.
In the beginning there is the thrill that one is about to embark on an exotic journey into an area for the most part uncharted by Hollywood (Siberia), and the film does deliver a few glimpses of China and Russia that entice the eye. And, at first anyway, the characters and their relationships are intriguing enough to grab and hold our attention. Woody Harrelson is always good and here he delivers a fairly convincing performance as "Roy", a christian volunteer doing work with needy children in China. Roy is the typical bleary-eyed American optimist blissfully unaware of his own naivete. The fact that he wears Woodrow Wilson styled bifocals nicely underscores his limited vision of the world. This isn't Oscar stuff by any stretch but naivete is Woody's forte and since this character truly is caring and compassionate and sees only the best in other people he's actually quite likable. Since everyone else in this film is slightly jaded and gaurded and hiding a sketchy past, Roy's optimism and openness and childlike enthusiasm for trains is actually quite refreshing. His openness is at times an asset (he is a people magnet), at other times a liability (his naivete and over-the-top Americanness make him an easy target at home and abroad).
Accompanying Roy on this volunteer trip to China is his wife Jessie (played by the immensely talented and infinitely watchable Emily Mortimer whose previous film appearances include: Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl & Lovely and Amazing). Jessie is an odd match for Roy. She has experienced more of the world than he has and her adventurous, and perhaps dark, past is something that she keeps to herself. That is until Roy and Jessie board the Transsiberian Express and meet fellow travelers Carlos (Eduardo Noriega, best known for his work in the Spanish film Open Your Eyes) and Abby (Kate Mara). Carlos and Abby are seasoned travelers who look like they have seen a lot of the world, and not just the stuff that's in the Lonely Planet travel guide. Though well traveled, they are younger than Roy and Jessie and still full of wanderlust for the world and each other. Being around them reawakens Jessie's own still simmering wanderlust. Reckless and impulsive Carlos awakens her sense of danger and her sensuality (which have remained for the most part dormant during her time with Roy); and unrooted and uncertain Abby reminds her of her own younger and riskier, and as yet unmapped, self. Abby represents that side of herself that Jessie misses but also fears so she feels threatened by but also protective of Abby who is traveling down a lot of the same paths and traveling down them for many of the same reasons that Jessie formerly did. Abby's attraction to Carlos reminds Jessie of her own attractions to such men when she was that age and therefore she has conflicting feelings for Carlos: her younger self wants him, her older self wants him out of the picture. The fact that Jessie has a past and an understanding of many different types of existence makes her an excellent observer of human nature and as a result she takes wonderful pictures. But this avocation, like her relationship with Roy, is also a safe one. It allows her to indulge her interest in the disordered variety of life that she is attracted to but also to maintain a responsible and respectable distance from that world. However, her pictures also provide clues to an undeniable truth about Jessie. In the most memorable scene of the film a detective handles her camera and begins to scan through her photos while she nervously watches knowing the difference between culpability and liberty is only one delete button away. Mortimer does an exceptional job with the role. This character is full of surprises, including self-surprise, every step of the way.
The film could have worked well had it confined itself to developing the personal histories and tracing the evolving relationship dynamics and life trajectories of these four characters as they travel together in close quarters on an exotic train passing through one snowy Siberian locale after another. Instead, the film decides to take a different route and heads off into the usual Hollywood thriller terrain: drug smuggling, torture, murder, trainjacking & smashing etc... In other words, at about the halfway point, the film foregoes character study (and subtlety), and becomes your usual lurid, predictable, and forgettable summer flick."
Brad Anderson scores with this intense thriller!
Movie Man | 09/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie in Los Angeles and was plesently surprised. This movie had me glued to my seat until the credits rolled. Anderson clearly has created a mystery masterpiece telling the story of a clueless couple, Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer, stuck on a cross country train ride through the grim backdrop of a post-soviet Russia. The two are caught in a whirlwind of drug-smuggling, torture and crooked cops. I haven't been this impressed with a movie for a long time and can't wait to buy this sucker on DVD disc!"
A ride with menace and fear
Nikolai | VT | 12/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Don't worry: No spoilers. Transsiberian is an excellent thriller. A reviewer here aptly called it a neo-Hitchcockian film. A train ride in snowy Russia full of menace and suspense. As someone who has taken long train journeys in Russia, I can attest that the movie is quite good in transmitting their feel: from the vodka-lubricated friendly warmth of new acquaintances to the all too common hostile rudeness of train employees. And have no doubts about the suspense itself: the sense of dread and danger builds up gradually from almost nonexistent to just about unbearable. Emily Mortimer is superb as the central character. She has to exhibit a very wide range of emotions and she's absolutely convincing at all stages. Woody Harrelson is cast as Mortimer's husband. He is very credible as a friendly and rather naive Iowan who hasn't done much travel outside the US. He's also a train enthusiast--one of the reasons he's so thrilled about the Transsiberian. His wife is a woman with a wild past who turned her life around after meeting her husband, a committed Christian. They have to share their cabin with a young couple: Kate Mara, a young American, and Eduardo Noriega, a handsome Spaniard. Mortimer and Harrelson soon discover that their younger cabin mates are much better traveled than they are. Although they are friendly, Mortimer senses some mystery in the story of their companions. The last among the main characters is another train passenger, an English-speaking Russian narcotics detective played by Ben Kingsley. As it is often the case, Kingsley's character is both intelligent and intense. If you like suspense films, don't miss this one."
Strangers on a train
Flight Risk (The Gypsy Moth) | usa | 09/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A moody dark tale of the perils of getting mixed with the wrong people, TRANSSIBERIAN is the type of film that sucks you in immediately. It is an examination of the nature of fidelity, truth and gullibility...with a healthy dose of dont talk to strangers thrown in. Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) have been in the Far East, where Jessie's prowess with a camera has won her honors in helping the plight of children in China. The couple decides to take the long Transsiberian train back to Moscow, eager to see more of the culture of the area. Roy, who back home is an important member of his church and a hardware store owner, as well as a train buff, comes off as highly likeable, sweet, and a little too innocent for his own good. Woody Harrelson plays this type of role well, and is good here. His wife Jessie is a rescued 'bad girl', struggling even now to settle down and not pine for her days of less-than-innocent. They board the train and find themselves co-cabined with a mysterious young couple who even at the outset Jessie is not sure are all they seem.
Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara) are hinky from the start, jumpy, a little creepy; and Carlos shows immediate interest in Jessie, which Roy doesn't get and which makes Jessie nervous. Everything comes to a head when, at a station stop, Roy gets left behind. There is so much suggestion in this movie, you are not sure exactly what to think about the fact that he isn't on the train when it starts up again; and you are kept guessing about this, and practically everything else in the movie. Jessie opts to stay at the next stop and wait for Roy to rejoin the train, and Carlos and Abby decide to stay with her, which doesn't exactly make her feel more secure.
The action grows darker and more grim from here, becoming a tangled web of deception, danger, and that impotent desperate feeling of being a foreigner in a place where the rules aren't clear. Everyone in the cast is spot-on; you really believe the fear and dread in Jessie when things transpire that she sees no way out of; you know Inspector Grinko (the always superb Sir Ben Kingsley, doing a great Russian accent here as a corrupt police official) is sizing things up with a glance. Roy slowly comes out of his cloud of sunny complacency to realize that there are things going on that perhaps a smile cannot fix, and that his wife is up to her neck in big problems.
I chanced upon this film, and was riveted from the first moment. You can feel the cold of the Siberian winter, and the helplessness of being a total stranger on a train full of native speakers who aren't always that interested in being polite or helpful. There was not a dull moment in the film, and the action was enhanced by a nuanced score that sends chills down your back at all the right times. Although I felt the ending a bit contrived and improbable, I would recommend this movie completely. Fast paced, intelligent, it will keep you guessing to the end."