11 February 2010 | Movie_Muse_Reviews
A different pace for a thriller vehicle with fresh talent
A thriller on the Trans-Siberian railway is not an everyday film premise and that is in part what makes "Transsiberian" interesting. It's not typical in any way unless you count the connection between murder and trains. That, and its cast is quality without seeking out big- hitting names and its director, Brad Anderson ("The Machinist") is a fairly understated one. The story of a married couple onboard the railway and encountering something over their heads is not full of devious twists and turns, but it's attention-getting.
Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrleson star as two married travelers who after going to China to do volunteer work through their church, decide to travel through Russia by train to make their trip a bid more adventurous. After all, we wouldn't have much of a film without them deciding to take the train. On board, they meet Carlos and Abby, a young couple whom they bond with, but who appear more and more suspicious as the film inches toward its first big event.
Not much more can be said without giving away large chunks of the suspenseful elements of the film. It's not bland, but the intrigue of this film is summed up into just a handful of moments. Ben Kingsley, however, has a dynamite supporting role as a Russian homicide/narcotics detective. His performance is crucial to the movie's entertainment value.
I would suspect a lot of people would be less than enamored with "Transsiberian" because it floats between suspenseful thriller and a drama about keeping secrets, telling lies and guilt. It's not pure entertainment, nor is profound with regards to the human condition. Expectation for one or the other is a recipe for not having much of a feeling about this film.
I, however, found the subtlety of Anderson's film a delightful change of pace and the characters played by Mortimer and Harrelson (and the performances they give) easy to sympathize with and unique. Anderson doesn't use any familiar clichés in creating suspense with his film. It just builds toward its few moments and with the help of what I felt was an equally effective score from Spanish composer Alfonso Vilallonga. "Transsiberian" is effective in rhythm and mood, not in plot twists and profundity.
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