2008 - United Kingdom - 111 minutes
Director - Brad Anderson
Writers - Brad Anderson and Will Conroy
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.1/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

Transsiberian is an exciting character-driven thriller that appears to be basically unknown. I don’t remember seeing it advertised anywhere during its initial run, but it is surely as good - if not better - than many of the big box office releases.

Jessie (Emily Mortimer) and Roy (Woody Harrelson) are a Midwestern couple who have been in China on a city exchange organized by their church. Roy is a train enthusiast and has convinced his wife to travel by to the United States via the Trans-Siberian Express. Jessie is less than thrilled by the whole idea but goes along for the sake of her husband. She is an amateur photographer, and the trip, at least, offers her many opportunities for interesting shots.

We see right away that there is a strain in their marriage exhibited by Jessie’s reluctance to have children. As the story develops, we find out more and more about the pasts of these two and come to understand why Jessie is so resistant.

Jessie and Roy must share their cabin with Abby (Kate Mara) and Carlos (Eduardo Noriega). They are a somewhat mysterious couple who say they have been teaching English in Japan. Abby is very stand-offish, and Carlos is extremely gregarious. He also has a darkness about him and a sexual energy that makes Jessie cautiously attracted to him as he is one of those bad boy types who is the total opposite of Roy.

As this foursome travels through the frozen terrain, they come to know more and more of each other and enjoy the interaction with all the other passengers. Things turn dark when one of the four murders another.

This film begins, not with Jessie and Roy, but with Grinko (Ben Kingsley) who is a Russian police officer who specializes in arresting members of the drug trade, and as events develop, he crosses paths with the remaining three of the foursome. To say more would spoil the development of this thriller for anyone interest in viewing.

As for the plot and the thriller, it is interesting enough, but the characters and superior acting in the film is what makes it so fascinating to watch. There is not a single performance, down to the minor characters, that is not intriguing.

As for the major performers, they are all perfection. I’m not sure that Ben Kingsley has ever given a bad performance. Woody Harrelson always adds a little flair to his performances, and in this one, he is the perfect everyday guy. Eduardo Noriega is perfect as the dark, sexy bad boy and Kate Mara as the girl somewhat out of her element is very good. The strongest performance is given by Emily Mortimer as a woman with a somewhat dark past who becomes overwhelmed by the events occurring around her.

If you sit down to enjoy the acting and characters in Transsiberian and are willing to ignore some holes and flaws in the script, you will have a rewarding viewing experience.

Neil Turner
November 5, 2008