I don’t know about you but I love traveling either by bus or especially by train. There’s something so calming and almost hypnotizing in hearing the familiar clickety-clack sounds. Plus, you can feel right at home with spacious cabins, toilets, and restaurants. Something that you won’t find on a regular bus. Full of mystery and stunning landscapes, Transsiberian is a character-driven thriller following a couple’s train journey from hell. It’s not Murder on the Orient Express but it similarly keeps its secrets until the very end. And you can bet your sweet ass that there will be some twists along the way!
It’s directed by Brad Anderson, the man behind a couple of great movies like Session 9 and particularly The Machinist. His camerawork and ability to generate tension created a hell of an atmosphere in Transsiberian. In case you are not familiar with Trans-Siberian Railway, here’s a bit of info: It was built between 1891 and 1916 in an effort to connect Moscow with the Russian Far East. With a length of 9,289 kilometers (5,772 miles), it is the longest railway line in the world. Now, just imagine how many travelers and adventurers felt the call of this beast.
The beautiful wide open spaces of untouched nature are juxtaposed with the cramped interior of the train. However, Transsiberian is squarely focused on our lead characters and the trouble they’re going to soon find themselves in. You might call them naive or stupid but I wouldn’t go so far. I would call them average. And I would extend that to the story itself, that seems a bit too cliched. However, that could be just my intense dislike of the classic passionate, and exotic Spanish guy who can seduce anyone. Although I will admit that this is a cliche because it’s fucking true.
Roy and Jessie are a young American couple about to board the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railway. They’re Christian missionaries leaving China after the end of their assignment. And their first time traveling this route seems like an unforgettable experience at first. The scenery is gorgeous and they even meet a nice couple on the train. However, things start going downhill pretty quickly and soon both of them will need all their wits and skills to survive this train ride from hell.
Although I really love both Woody and Emily who gave superb performances, Ben Kingsley stole the show here as Grinko. The man is a force of nature and if you don’t believe me just check him out in Sexy Beast. Transsiberian explores familiar themes most of us can relate to. Financial troubles, relationship issues, and this need for excitement and that feeling of being truly alive are in all of us. The same goes for the characters. The suspenseful atmosphere and the claustrophobic train setting are the final pieces of the puzzle.
They elevate this rather mediocre thriller to something more potent. It’s like you’re now in this strange world where only the train exists and everything else is just an illusion. Once you’re in that world though, you’ll get an authentic look into post-Soviet life in Russia. It’s a vibe, that’s all I’m going to say about it.
Director: Brad Anderson
Writers: Brad Anderson, Will Conroy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega