Brad Anderson...make up your mind...what kind of movies do you want to make? You may be suffering from genre confusion. I'm sorting my way through it. You know how to take an idea and finesse it into a work of art. 1998...Next Stop Wonderland. Hope Davis navigates the dating scene after her meddling mama places an online personal ad on her behalf, you scored. You directed two episodes of The Wire (all brilliant). 2004...The Machinist. Though I had issues with this movie, you grace us with talent... Which brings me to your 2008 œuvre, Transsiberian.
First the good. The setting. A thriller on-board a train transporting characters from Beijing to Moscow when they could've, much more easily, take a plane generates ideas. The shot of Jessie (Emily Mortimer) looking at the map of the train ride tells us all we need to know--this is going to be a long trip and it won't go well. Things aren't great between Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie on the let's-give-this-one-last-try trip. They share an unusually small train cabin with the young hot backpacker couple, Abby (Kate Mara) and Carlos (Eduardo Noriega). Immediately, they stir things up. The suspense builds exponentially...the train ride facilitates the adventure. The twists and complications are constant and the tension is palpable. Ben Kingsley as bad guy always hits the mark.
Now for the bad. Harrelson is a decent actor, but why the terrible wig?This screams desperation. Was there no other way to get the point across? Roy is supposed to be a square but the wig is distractingly bad.
(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)
One of the characters doesn't make it. So much about the death is traceable yet these details are left open-ended and fairly implausible. In regard to the final scene, is it possible that a dead body outside a tourist attraction church would be left undiscovered for so long? We're supposed to believe that it's winter and no one would go there...but the flyers are displayed...and if there are flyers, it's likely Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rough Guides would list it. It's too big a detail to ask the viewer to ignore. There are several like this, but the movie brews great suspense, intrigue and Hollywood-scale stunts. If, like Roy, you love trains (and thrillers), this one is for you this snowy season. Jingle Bells!
Director: Brad Anderson
Run time: 111 minutes