TRANSSIBERIAN *** Emily Mortimer, Woody Harrelson, Ben Kingsley; with English subtitles (Russian dialects); rated R (violence, profanity, gore, torture, drugs, brief sex, vulgarity)
"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.