Transsiberian (First Look, R)

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film_transsib_sm.jpgBrad Anderson really makes you wonder why there aren't more thrillers like Transsiberian.








I've never understood why director Brad Anderson isn't as popular as his fellow Anderson filmmakers (P.T. and Wes, of course). Though I know he garnered a few geeky Christian Bale lovers with The Machinist, most of his other films, like the strange am-I-falling-in-love-with-an-alien romantic comedy Happy Accidents with Marisa Tomei and the creepy Session 9, seemed to fade when the buzz died down. I'd like to say Transsiberian will elevate his status, but you can never be sure these days. What I am sure of, however, is that Transsiberian is a wallop of a thriller, beautifully old-fashioned and tense as hell.

Amateur photographer and recovering bad girl Jessie (the wonderful Emily Mortimer) is traveling around Asia with her doofus Christian husband Roy (Woody Harrelson). Upon leaving China, they take the train heading to Moscow and meet hunky Spaniard Carlos (Eduardo Noreiga) and his American girlfriend Abby (Kate Mara), who never saw a tube of black eyeliner she didn't like. I'd prefer to just say that things begin to go awry in a very Hitchcockian manner instead of resorting to a plethora of spoilers; think The Lady Vanishes meets Strangers on a Train with a little drug trafficking on the side.

Maybe it's just my leftward political leanings, but Anderson dances on a line of crafting nail-biting suspense in the unknown and presenting yet another example of xenophobic terror. With films about Americans in peril overseas (I'd say "American films," but Transsiberian was funded entirely by European countries), I'm always afraid that they present a harmful image of the rest of the world. Anderson can be forgiven, much more so than Eli Roth and his Hostel flicks, if only because the experiment of putting people out of their environment and language actually succeeds.

Supported by a fantastic performance from Mortimer, Anderson really makes you wonder why there aren't more thrillers like Transsiberian. More often, we're given garbage like Perfect Stranger, Premonition and Untraceable. Although he allows a red herring or two to slip through the cracks in order to divert the viewer, Transsiberian reverberates with an accelerating pulse. | Joe Bowman

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