| 'Transsiberian' a first-class thriller
Writer-director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”) delivers a first-class thriller that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of. The title refers to the legendary express train that links the Far East and Europe. The screenplay was inspired by Anderson’s own trip to Eastern Asia.
Woody Harrelson plays Roy, a conservative bespectacled hardware store owner from Iowa who has a model train set in his basement. His wife, Jessie (Emily Mortimer who looks like a young Demi Moore), dabbles in photography as a hobby. She had a sordid past before she met Roy. She is restless by nature. Jessie is not ready to start having a family, but Roy wants nature to take its course. They decide to take an adventurous trip to work out their marital difficulties.
After spending two weeks in China on a church-sponsored goodwill mission aiding children, they choose a more leisurely six-day train ride from Beijing to Moscow rather than a speedy airplane flight. They violate the cardinal rules of travel (talking to strangers and leaving your luggage unattended), which lead to deadly consequences. They get more than they bargained for and get caught up in a web of suspense and intrigue.
They bond with a mysterious couple and encounter a Russian detective in the narcotics bureau (Ben Kingsley in a pivotal supporting role). There are shades of “Psycho” and “The Birds” as Anderson turns up the heat against a wintry Siberian backdrop with his adept handling of visceral fear.
Mortimer gives a terrific performance as the frightened damsel in distress whose fear drives her to act irrationally. She is in possession of two secrets with no place to hide on a speeding locomotive.
The only light touch is the familiar American pop tunes piped into the speakers of each berth by the train’s antiquated intercom system. The sound effects featuring a wide variety of train noises add greatly to the vicarious experience.
There are unexpected twists and turns around each bend of the tracks. This is the train ride from hell that you will never forget. All aboard!
Some dialogue is in Russian with English subtitles. Opening exclusively at the Leawood and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"