Brad Anderson’s train thriller is an effective piece of cinema that keeps tension high while taking a series of twists and turns along the way.
The film opens with the police investigation of a drug dealer that was robbed and killed, with the investigation headed up by Grinko (Ben Kingsley) who after discovering that someone is on the run with the drugs sets out to track the trail. We are then introduced to a couple, Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer), who are doing some charity work in Beijing who get are taking the Tran Siberian Railroad back to Moscow before heading back to the states. Roy is openly more religious of the two and Jessie is a bit scarred of getting pregnant, and while there is a bit of tension between the two they get along for the most part. Enter their bunk mates, a younger couple named Abby and Carlos (Kate Mara and Eduardo Noriega) who are a pair of free spirits that seem to be hiding something. Abby warns Jessie and Roy that drug mules are a big problem on the railway, and that they should make sure to have all their ducks in a row with customs and their passports to avoid detention. As the two couples move along, Abby gets Jessie to reveal her not so goody too shoe past, while Carlos begins sending a real creeper vibe towards Jessie. To make matters worse, at a routine stop, Roy ends up missing and Jessie begins to get more and more nervous as Carlos begins to become even more intrusive.
The plot takes many twists and turns from here and like I mentioned in the intro, will keep the tension going throughout most of the picture. The picture itself though never really excels into being great though, while doing nothing terribly wrong at the same time. The pace is quick, the plot keeps you guessing, the acting is solid, but something holds it back. It could be a shade of predictability with later twists and a bit of the unbelivability of the final acts setting, but even so, I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the picture over this, the film just stayed solid and not much else. Brad Anderson’s direction is very sound though and he and his team assembled a beautifully shot and edited picture to look at.
The actors all do a very fine job as well all across the board in the picture, with Noriega and Mortimer really standing out. Kingsley leaves an air of mystery to his tough Russian cop who we learn are never quite what they seem and a bit rough around the edges. Kate Mara does a nice job as Abby though she is definitely the smallest and weakest performance of the bunch. Harrelson is pretty great as the naive, religious, and kind Roy, just nailing that guy that cares a bit to much while also showing off some range in a character I have never seen him get into before. Noriega is incredibly creepy and shifty as Carlos and he will have you squirming in your seat as he makes one move after another at trying to get closer and closer to Jessie. Mortimer really shines as well as she gives Jessie depth and lets us in to her character having more behind her eyes that she would like us to know, while still creating a hero for the picture to get behind. She gives another strong performance and it is a shame that she is as underrated as she is to the main stream public.
In the end, Transsiberian is a solid little thriller that I can easily recommend to most people. It has plenty of tension and serves as a great character study on top of that. Good work by the cast all around is also worth the price of admission and added to a story that will keep you guessing most of the time. This is totally worth the rental, as it is out now on DVD/Blu-Ray, and I think you will find that it is one of the more solid films that flew under most people’s radars this year.