Wednesday 27 January 2010

Transsiberian: review

Transsiberian (2008) is a movie thriller that really does thrill. It's one of the most gripping films I’ve seen in a long while. The script is intelligent and taut; the cast is excellent, and is headed by Woody Harrelson, a versatile actor I very much admire, and Emily Mortimer (daughter of the late Sir John) and includes Ben Kingsley.

The story opens dramatically, with the discovery of a murdered man in Vladivostok. Inspector Grinko (Ben Kingsley) suspects that the crime is connected with drug trafficking. But then Grinko disappears from the action and attention switches to an American couple (Harrelson and Mortimer) who have just completed work on a charitable project in China.

Harrelson’s character is gregarious, and thanks to him, the Americans befriend a very attractive younger couple, a Spanish man with a girlfiriend from Seattle, who share their compartment on the Transsiberian Express. Unfortunately, Mortimer finds herself attracted to the Spanish chap, and the complications escalate from there.

It takes a long time for the action to erupt in this movie, but we are never less than fascinated by the interplay of characters. Harrelson is a cheery do-gooder, Mortimer has a dark past and is dissatisfied with the marital status quo. Their relationship is put under intolerable strain, and part of the appeal of this film is the way in which the couple face up to the challenges with which they are confronted. When Kingsley shows up on the train, all charm and subdued menace, we are never quite sure whether he is one of the good guys or one of the bad guys.

The Lady Vanishes and Murder on the Orient Express were earlier crime films of quality that were set mostly in the confined space of a train. In my opinion, Transsiberian deserves to rank with them as one of the best train-based films ever made.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks, as always, for this review. With a cast that includes the great Ben Kingsley (Did you see him in Ghandi?) and Harrelson, I'm not surprised you liked it so much.

mybillcrider said...

Judy and I really enjoyed this one. You never know quite where it's going, and when things begin to go wrong, it really does get intense.

Steve Lewis said...


Your last sentence is high praise indeed.

I hadn't heard much about this movie until I read your review, so I checked it out at Amazon.

There it receives only 3 1/2 stars.

Many are as favorable as yours. Then I read one of the less favorable reviews:

"Unfortunately, everything that is attractive about this film is derailed by a script that takes one too many unlikely plot turns."

Bingo. Sold!

-- Steve

Martin Edwards said...

Steve, well said!
I did admire both the plotting and the characterisation. It's a real find, in my opinion.
Margot, I'm on the look out for more Harrelson now!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love it when the action is limited to a small space! I'll have to check it out....thanks.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Deb said...

The original "Narrow Margin" (not the dreary remake with Gene Hackman), featuring Marie Windsor, one of the Queens of B-movie noir, is a gripping movie in which the action takes place almost solely on a train.

And, lest we forget, the setting of that seventies star-studded disaster extravaganza, "The Cassandra Crossing," is confined almost exclusively to a train.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Deb, I've never seen Narrow Margin in either version, but will keep an eye out for the original.

Dorte H said...

Thank you!

And I´d say the rules are fair enough - and they only form a problem if I should win!

Janet O'Kane said...

Martin - thanks for this. Very timely as I'd recorded Transsiberian on my SkyPlus system but couldn't work up the enthusiasm to watch it. You've definitely saved it from deletion until I've given it a chance.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Janet. Yes, it definitely deserves a chance!