Americans abroad. Roy and Jessie finished a volunteer stint in China. He loves trains, so they go home via the Trans-Siberia Express. There are strains in the relationship, including her past. They meet Carlos, a Spaniard, traveling with Abby, a young American. Carlos keeps close to Jessie, and when Roy is left behind and waits a day for the next train so he can catch up, Jessie and Carlos take a trip into the dead of winter to photograph a ruined church. Carlos may be running drugs, so, later, when Roy catches up and introduces Jessie to his new pal, an English speaking Russian narcotics detective, he's the last person Jessie wants to see. Will the Siberian desolation be their undoing? Written by
While walking to the old church, even though they are in Siberia in the winter, we do not see their breath when they exhale. See more »
[about the Gulag]
If you want proof about America, you take a book. You want proof about Russia, take shovel. They're all buried here. Scientists, priests, poets. There is no God, and there is no Siberia.
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One of the many mantras we all learnt from young was never to talk to strangers, because we do not know if they're hiding any ulterior motives. But when you're on vacation, sometimes in being friendly we open up to others, and hopefully allow for the sharing of experiences forge new found friendships. Not always with a positive outcome, but it wouldn't hurt just to be friendly, especially with those who are travelling in the same direction and sharing the same cabin for an extended period.
The Transsiberian Express traverses between Beijing and Moscow, taking 8 days between destinations and is the world's longest train journey. I haven't been on any extended train journeys, so if the opportunity arises, I don't see why not, especially when it offers the views as what can be seen in this film (albeit some locales being stood in by others). For the couple Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer), the long way home via rail is something of a given since Roy is a train nut, with Jessie not minding the journey since it provides for plenty of photographic opportunities to feed her hobby with the camera.
With Roy being the ever friendly dude on board, he soon befriends a Spaniard and an American couple Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), who are also travelling the same way, and are drifters of sorts, spending the significant part of their recent lives just travelling between cities. Soon we find that these two aren't just your regular tourists, and everything else perhaps just smokescreen for something sinister coming up, especially when Roy gets delayed when he ogled too long at some abandoned trains, leaving Jessie travelling with the other duo, and Carlos getting a little way too friendly for an acquaintance.
Transsiberian brings to the table a thriller that worked on multiple levels. It plays with the panicky mindset when we get separated from our travelling companion in a foreign land, accentuating this fear really well, while also has some sexual tension brewing that you know will rip a relationship apart if it does boil over. Midway through the film an unspeakable incident happens, with Emily having to cover her tracks with limited success, especially when no thanks to Roy, a narcotics detective Grinko (Ben Kingsley) shares their train cabin, and Jessie's suspicious behaviour just raises too many alarm bells.
Character motivations and their hidden agendas are the showpieces in the film, where it's both easy to try and mask the truth with lies building upon lies, yet on the other hand also easy to break them down in part due to corroboration, especially when you know the law still quite has the upper hand in eliciting responses from common folk. The multitudes of twists in the final act puts this in line with other "couple in trouble when on vacation" genre films such as A Perfect Getaway, only this one had the claustrophobic corridors in train carriages and a beautiful, wintry picturesque landscape.
It's not often that I get to see Emily Mortimer play a major role in a film, so this is a pleasant introduction to that, with Woody Harrelson taking on a character who's relatively muted, if compared to his recent roles of late. In fact his Roy is so whiny and naive, you'd wonder how the courtship actually went. Their characters make quite the odd couple with marital issues to address since they usually sweep them under the carpet, and I suppose this makes the dynamics at play here a little bit more interesting since they get along on the surface only, with some resentment brewing underneath, so what's more therapeutic than to go through an extreme adventure together, and an unexpected one at that.
Written by Will Conroy and Brad Anderson, the latter who was also responsible for this film's direction, Transsiberian emerges as a strong thriller which builds on the fact that a situation like this, or at least the setup, is entirely plausible, if we were to let our guard down, and be overly friendly to strangers who have already marked us for something more sinister. Stay safe while travelling, folks!
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