Edinburgh International Film Festival

Transsiberian (2008)

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Sir Ben Kingsley, Eduardo Noriega, Kate Mara

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Emily Mortimer as Jessie in Transsiberian

Ever started something you wish you hadn't? Like a six day train journey from Beijing to Moscow, cramped into a tiny cabin with a pair of drug smugglers and an angry Babushka at the end of the corridor doling out bitter tea without milk. But this is the big adventure planned by geeky train enthusiast Roy (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Jessie (Emily Mortimer) – an adventure that goes horribly wrong.

And, well, that's all I'm going to say, because I really don't want to spoil the twisted, shocking and unpredictable nature of the Hitchcockian plot of this film.

As you'd hope from Brad Anderson, the director of The Machinist (and, incidentally, one of the most disturbing episodes of the Masters of Horror series, Sounds Like), this is not a film that deals in straightforward black and white good and evil, and its ambiguously amoral ending leaves us feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

As actress Emily Mortimer pointed out in the Q&A that followed the screening of the film at the Edinburgh Film Festival, there's more than a whiff of the Dostoevskys about Transsiberian's complex examination of the lengths that people will go to when they're pushed, the terrible things good people will do if they feel they have no choice – or even if they do have a choice, and choose wrongly – and the question of whether anyone can ever really get away with murder.

Mortimer carries the movie as a reformed wild child who's chosen a new life by settling down with worthy, honest, dependable Roy, but who still finds herself drawn into temptation by the free spirited, irresponsible, lawless Spaniard Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and her fragile, understated performance is utterly credible, forcing us to ask ourselves what we would do if we were in her shoes.

As an advert for a holiday on the Transsiberian Express, this film does for Russia what Hostel did for Slovakia: what with crooked cops, scary border police and surly service staff, it's hardly inviting. But the narrow, claustrophobic train cutting ruthlessly through the barren, snowbound wilderness of Siberia provides the perfect setting for a tangled web of corruption, deception and intrigue. Expedia nil, nail-biting suspense ten.

  • Share on Tumblr