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
This movie was partly inspired from co-Writer and Director Brad Anderson's youth when he rode the Transsiberian Express. See more »
In one of the first scenes you see the inspector with everything frozen in the building. He finds a dead body with a knife in its head. Everything is frozen - except for the blood on the knife. 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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9 secs of cuts to shots of a knife being pressed into a leg wound were removed from the UK DVD release in order to achieve a 15 classification. Cuts were made in accordance with BBFC Guidelines and policy. An uncut 18 was available. See more »
The nightmare that ensues when a couple venture off the beaten track, following time dedicated to nothing but aiding.
If Brad Anderson has displayed a better example of being able to construct a tense and taut thriller prior to the only other film of his that I've seen, namely The Machinist, then I haven't come across it yet. Transsiberian, the 2008 thriller that sees many-a different individual from many-a different nation combine to deliver something thoroughly satisfying, is quite the little train ride into Hell; a return ticket to an isolated place of terror you really don't want to be anywhere near, in which half way down the line, your 'return' half goes missing. The world in which Transsiberian unfolds is cold, distant and lonely; the manner in which the characters act in their efficiency is equally cold, but disturbingly clinical and additionally calculated; whereas the experience of the film is one that is both terrifying and engrossing.
The film centres around an American couple travelling from a volunteering exercise in China, by way of most of Eastern Europe, when it transpires they're taking the Transsiberian train through the snowy; ice cold nether-regions of Russia. Having just finished helping; aiding and making good on those less fortunate, attentions in getting by, and just generally surviving, must drastically switch as they themselves become potential victims of harm; foulness; ruthlessness and corruption. This, as these items plus a real sense of wrongdoing and evil take over as the ingredients of the game for the journey home.
The couple are Woody Harrelson's Roy and Emily Mortimer's Jessie, an odd twosome; a partnership that sees one half in Roy, a guy rather infatuated with a number of hulking, parked trains situated in and around train stop goods yards, waltzing around with his encyclopedic knowledge and somewhat typical appearance of someone of an 'anorak' nature. This as they encounter another young couple in Carlos (Noriega), a ruggedly handsome and somewhat sexualised Hispanic male travelling with Abby (Mara), a pretty but somewhat vampish American girl. The retaining of Jessie, in the nicest possibly sense, as easily unclassifiable in appearance or 'type' helps in us relating to her, becoming aligned with her, and aids in the racking up of tension at later times when her life is at great stake.
Indeed it is Jessie that stands at the station at the beginning of the train trip, looking at the large map directly in front of her just prior to setting out. It's a large map; an intimidating map; a confusing map, with that feeling of it being the sort of journey ahead of you that you'd desperately like to pass off without much incident as you venture out into the unknown. Her gaze lingers on it a while before she shuffles off, unaware of exactly what lies ahead of her. It is a journey of which is instigated by the MacGuffin of the piece, an item that seems to be missing from one of the film's early scenes when the aftermath of a drug deal minus heroin is found by Ben Kingsley's Russian cop, Ilya Grinko, and his crew.
Transsiberian is good, old fashioned thrills and spills without anything fancy; without anything overly visual on screen that feels as if it exists purely in order to grab your attention - it's just good, honest build-up; crucible and straight forward terror. A good example of this approach is highlighted early on during the train journey, when a tiny altercation with a figure of authority plants some ominous seeds followed by a casual overhearing of a conversation on Jessie's behalf, that of which sees a Frenchman talking to someone else of the Russian law enforcers in the area, and the iron fist with which they rule that, on this occasion in this story, something as seemingly trivial as a misspelling on someone's Visa saw a hapless individual loose two toes.
Director Anderson's changing of tact to enforce a sense of observing this harrowing story through the eyes of Jessie is enforced when an instance sees Roy unable to make it back to the train after it pulls out of a station stop, after which Anderson constructs the world Jessie inhabits within the train more in a more ominous and scarier manner than before. The people appear uglier and more hostile; this doesn't suggest Jessie needs Roy to hold her hand as he leads her through the film, more-over, that sense of loss of a companion in a foreign territory twinned with the menace both on and off screen parties carry linger, ominously, at the back of one's mind. Eventually, Jessie's sporadic interactions with Carlos lead them into the rural wilderness in which certain incidences play out, thus paving the way for particular revelations to unfold later on.
Anderson's screenplay, which he co-wrote with Will Conroy, is full of twists and turns that bend the film down routes of both thrills and scares, producing a number of scenes of great effectiveness revolving around a routine set up, as well as finding time to shed some light on one's moral standpoint when certain events unfold out in the wilderness. The film's separating of its different tones and situations is near-flawless. In providing us with this nicest of nice couples, who then rendez-vous with another couple; before branching out into a film that sees a particular character coming into contact with items they really don't want to have anything to do with, the makers demonstrate a clear ability to change gears very naturally and let the film flow. All this, before settling for sheer horror following the noir-infused seeds that were sewn; this when a clear establishment of an antagonistic force to threaten those we've come to associate ourselves with, as well as the overseeing of some serious stakes being raised. Transsiberian is a romping, thrilling ride; a combination of promising to deliver on a level of generic thrills plus creative and natural film-making.
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