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Film review: Transsiberian

Published: Thursday, Sept. 18 2008 3:08 p.m. MDT

"Transsiberian" has more twists and turns in it than the real-life, extensive train route that gives this independently produced suspense-thriller its name.

Admittedly, that unpredictable, bobbing-and-weaving plot element becomes a little wearying, and things get pretty nasty and vicious toward the end.

And it should be noted that the film is certainly not up to the standards of such train-bound classics as Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 masterpiece "Strangers on a Train." But it is refreshing to see a thriller that has some smarts and thrills.

The movie follows Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer), a married couple who just finished work on a charitable mission in China.

Train enthusiast Roy has convinced Jessie that they should take a scenic rail trip through Mongolia and Russia. The early part of this journey has the expected minor squabbling, though that improves when the couple is joined by free-spirited fellow travelers Carlos and Abby (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara).

However, Jessie is convinced there's something sinister — or at least duplicitous — about the charismatic Carlos. Her suspicions appear to be confirmed when Roy disappears after taking a quick jaunt with Carlos during a scheduled train stop.

Co-screenwriter/director Brad Anderson complicates things with a subplot about a possibly corrupt Russian cop (Ben Kingsley). But this comes into play, heavily, later in the film.

As far as the performances are concerned, Kingsley's accent slips a little here and there, and Harrelson's Roy is a little too squeaky-clean to be believed. But Mortimer is terrific as a former wild-child, and Noriega ("Vantage Point") adds some sinister shadings to his character.

Also, there's a very good supporting turn from Mara. We're not sure where her character stands in all this, and the revelation at the end is a good one.

"Transsiberian" is rated R for strong scenes of violence (a beating, knife violence, vehicular mayhem and violence against women), strong sexual language (profanity and other suggestive talk), some gore and blood, a scene depicting torture, drug references and content (narcotics), a brief sex scene and other sexual contact (mostly overheard). Running time: 111 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com