Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Review: Transsiberian

Directed by Brad Anderson
Released July 18, 2008

“Transsiberian” is a thriller from director Brad Anderson which chronicles a couple’s international voyage on a cross-country train. Anderson is best known for his previous film, “The Machinist,” and “Transsiberian” is in many respects a very similar film. While “The Machinist” followed one character’s psychological unraveling, “Transsiberian” externalizes that sense of unknowing and triviality while still delving headfirst into the emotions of its characters. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer star as a couple traveling home from humanitarian work in China via the days-long train. Their chance meeting with a mysterious young couple leads to an unexpected sequence of events. The film does a terrific job of building suspense, creating a frantic, foreshadowed panic before there is even anything wrong. The snowy landscape provides an excellent backdrop for the film, in the same way that “Fargo” benefited tremendously from a blanket of white to hide the violence and terror occurring all around. The film is subtle and allows the tension to build before assaulting the viewer with thrills. As a result, it’s rather lopsided as a movie and the packed second act can’t make up for the slow pace of the first. Something seems missing for a good portion of the film, and it doesn’t quite arrive by the end. The performances are commendable, with Harrelson acting more serious than he might usually be inclined to do, and Mortimer putting on an American accent with ease. Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara embody the other couple effectively with the right mix of friendliness and suspiciousness. Ben Kingsley adds his token screen presence to round out an able cast with no weak links. It’s an intriguing film that only gets more interesting as it goes on, but it would have been a stronger experience if it had been compelling from the very beginning.


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