Saturday, 23 January 2010

Film Review: TRANSSIBERIAN (2008)

Director: Brad Anderson
Running time: 107 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 23rd January 2010.


I always find films that involve a journey quite interesting. Maybe because of the ever changing scenery, or maybe because of the interesting people that are met on the way, I’m not sure. And so I came to this film with some anticipation. The setting is, not surprisingly, the Transsiberian railway that runs from Vladivostok on the East cost of Russia through to Moscow. There is also a line that joins the Transsiberian that runs north from Beijing in China.

A young American couple, Roy and Jessie have been doing some work for their church in Beijing and have decided to travel back to the States overland, and so they take the Transsiberian from Beijing. They share a cabin with another couple, Carlos, from Spain and Abby from Seattle. Carlos and Abby are worldly wise and advise the somewhat naive Roy and Jessie on how best to avoid attracting attention from the authorities. Jessie seems to get particular attention from Carlos, who shows her a collection of Russian nesting dolls that he says he plans to sell in Amsterdam. During a stop, Roy and Jessie get separated when Roy is accidentally left behind. Jessie has to wait at the next stop for Roy to come through the following day. Carlos and Abby decide to wait with her. Whilst there, Carlos takes Jessie out to photograph an old abandoned church out in the frozen countryside, leaving Abby back at the hotel. He starts to make a move on Jessie and, at first she responds, but then backs off. Carlos doesn’t like this and pursues her through the woods. Jessie, now desperate, picks up a piece of wood and hits him with it. She hits him with it several times and before she knows it, he’s dead. She heads back to the hotel and goes to the train station where Roy has just arrived. They continue their journey with a new cabin-mate, a narcotics detective, Grinko. He tells them how smugglers were now using mules to get heroin into the country and forming it into everyday objects. Looking in her case later, Jessie finds the Russian dolls Carlos had shown her earlier… I think that’s enough spoilers for now.

Quite a well made film with some good performances; some of the cinematography was really excellent. The setting was a little constricting, but the story seemed to flow quite well despite this. As I said, good performances from all of the leading cast, Woody Harrelson as Roy, Emily Mortimer as Jessie, Ben Kingsley as Grinko, Kate Mara as Abby, Eduardo Noriega as Carlos and Thomas Kretschmann as Klozak.

This is a film of two halves, the first half up to the murder of Carlos, and the second half involving the mysterious Detective Grinko. Although I found the first half slightly predictable, I thought the second half didn’t quite live up to expectations. It seems to be a recurring theme with modern thrillers; it’s almost as if writers have forgotten how to write an ending. Over all, it’s not a bad film, a good one to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon perhaps.

My score: 6.3/10

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