Movie Review
Transsiberian poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published July 28, 2008
US Release: July 18, 2008

Directed by: Brad Anderson
Starring: Woody Harrelson , Emily Mortimer , Kate Mara , Ben Kingsley

R some violence, including torture and language
Running Time: 111 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $2,203,641
It's capable and admirable. It's dank and dingy, and it takes chances; nonetheless, it has some pat elements that undercut the impact of the film as a whole.
Oh wow, we have another film from director Brad Anderson. He's a good director. I liked Happy Accidents, Session 9, and The Machinist quite a bit, so you know I was gonna be there at the art house to check out his newest thriller. Plus, my friend works for the company that distributed the picture, and wanted to get a reaction from me. So what did I think of the flick? It was ok. Pretty good I'd say. It has big strengths but equal weaknesses, and I found that I wouldn't quite put it in the echelon of Anderson's previous work. Nevertheless it's capable and admirable. It's dank and dingy, and it takes chances; nonetheless, it has some pat elements that undercut the impact of the film as a whole.

Contradictions: That might be the point of this post-Soviet world. By the end of the movie, you can see the contradiction writ large across these characters' arcs. This is the kind of movie that asks "What is a criminal?" and "How can someone be decent and sinister at the same time?" I like the fact that it is asking such questions, because that provides decent food for thought. On the other hand, there's not necessarily much psychological depth attached to these inquiries. Minimal back-story is given for everyone except the main character, played by Emily Mortimer. And she's good. She's the focus of the story. She makes you empathize with her, but possibly dislike her simultaneously. Woody Harrelson turns in a nice performance as well, even though his character is so cheesy as a person. He turns the cliche milquetoast white guy into something watchable. Ben Kingsley gives a very good turn as what could also be considered a stock character: the subtly menacing Russian police inspector. He dives right into the role, and is as entertaining as he's been in recent years. It's probably him that gives the movie the extra edge into mild thumbs-up territory.

The direction has tone but not much flair. This is a grim story in a grim environment, so it's dank and dusky. It definitely captures that Old Russia, frozen wilderness kind of vibe. I mean, we're going Trans-Siberian here people. The train they travel in looks dirty and hardly like a vehicle you'd want to spend much time in, let alone a week. There's definitely a claustrophobic couldn't there be? And it's broken up by an eye-opening walk in the snowy woods, at which point twisty, plot-progressing things occur.

But it's all in good fun. This is a fun little indie thriller. It didn't make me mad or bored, or make me want to threaten violence on the overall nature of art houses. It had me walking out thinking about the nice mild diversion it supplied. It's like a little popsicle snack you have before going to the super-huge 7-course meal of something like The Dark Knight. Anderson didn't wow me, but he added another decent one to his film canon. Now will someone please give him a big-budget comic book series or whatever he can get his hands on? Oh wait, I think he said he doesn't want one, or something like that. Damn indie spirit!
Scott's Grade: B-
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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'Transsiberian' Articles
  • Craig's review C
    September 6, 2008    The actors are doing their shady best and you can see Andersonís love for Hitchcock, but he seems to be trying too hard to make something out of an average story. -- Craig Younkin