Posted by: ianstrope | July 20, 2009

Review: Transsiberian

2008 | Director: Brad Anderson (“The Wire,” “The Shield”) | Writers: Brad Anderson and Will Conroy

“Transsiberian” is a thriller that follows a Christian American couple played adequately by Woody Harrleson (“Money Train”, “Play it to the Bone”) and the always fetching Emily Mortimer (“Redbelt,” “Lars and the Real Girl”) as they travel from Beijing to Moscow along the famous railway.

I love trains in movies. They offer a look and an environment for great suspense and excitement (“Narrow Margin” “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory”). I also enjoy settings that have great character in mood and tone. “Transsiberian” has some of this but not enough to overcome a first act that is about 20 minutes too long and ultimately leads to a convoluted and derivative crime plot.

This first act also offers Harrelson and Mortimer giving up their collective back-stories in perfunctory monologues delivered to the young sketchy couple they meet on the first leg of the trip. The way the Americans offer information about their past is amateur and forced. It took me out of the story and left the rest of the movie trying to get me back.

The movie is here.  It's not as great as it looks.

The movie is here. It's not as great as it looks.

Things do pick up in the second half as Mortimer’s character engages in a somewhat inexplicable series of actions that ultimately serve the plot by connecting her and Harrelson with the crime story. Once this happens the film is more engaging though it never seems to get beyond mediocrity in anything other than Mortimer’s performance. This is too bad because Ben Kingsley (“Species”, “BloodRayne”) shows up on the train at this point to help kick the tension up a notch.

Ultimately, problems with execution kept me from enjoying the movie as much as I would have liked. Plot issues aside, Anderson does not handle the landscapes and environment in a way that is particularly exciting. And the crime story and characters are for the most part just-so average. I really wanted to like “Transsiberian” but in the end it was nothing special.

Rating: Two of Five Stars

 

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