MOVIE: Transsiberian (2008)

Man,I’m so behind on everything again!  This is what happens in December, though, especially if you, like me, just spent the last seven days TKO’d by the flu.  D’oh.

I’m heading out tomorrow for a week in sunny San Diego, but will be working on blog posts and my “Best of 2008” write-up while there, never fear.  In the meantime, here’s another good movie I saw while I was on vacation over Thanksgiving.  And dude, let me tell you what, the downside to renting all GOOD movies during that trip is that I’m totally burned out on writing reviews of them.  Reviews of good movies?  BORRRRRRRRING.  I’m hoping to watch a bad horror flick today to try to even things out a bit.

This suspenseful flick is set on the Transsiberian, the train that runs from China to Moscow, across, you guessed it, Siberia.  As the story opens, an American husband and wife duo, Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer), have just completed some mission/church work in China and have decided to board the Transsiberian to Moscow instead of flying, in order to spend some quality time together.

Sharing their compartment is another couple, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara).  As the two couples get to know each other better, it becomes clear that not all is well with either relationship.  And things go from complicated to dangerous when Jessie discovers Carlos is smuggling drugs and has somehow managed to transfer them from his luggage to hers — just as the cops have boarded the train with drug-sniffin’ dogs.

But what at first seems like it’s going to be a drug drama turns in a radically different direction when one of the four is killed by another one of the four, and a dirty Russian cop, played by Ben Kingsley, takes the rest of them hostage in an attempt to torture the location of the drugs (and a large sum of money) out of them.   Didn’t expect that, I will confess!

There were definitely elements of this film I didn’t feel worked all that well, and Woody Harrelson would probably be my biggest complaint.  He’s all wrong in this role, and I had a hard time believing someone as smart as Jessie would hook up with a cutesy doofus like Roy to begin with.  But Eduardo Noriega is, as always, terrific (and gorgeous), and I was definitely sucked into this one and on the edge of my seat for much of the second half.  The scenery is stunning and I love movies set on trains (Silver Streak is a particular old favorite).

All in all, a great snowy thriller for the holidays!  You know, if you like to celebrate the season by watching movies about drug smuggling and dirty cops.  (Well, who doesn’t, I ask you?)

[Netflix me | Buy me] (Note: this is also currently available to Watch Instantly at Netflix)

Genre:  Drama
Cast:  Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Eduardo Noriega, Ben Kingsley, Kate Mara


9 Responses to “MOVIE: Transsiberian (2008)”

  1. Trip Says:


    Runaway Train, natch, is also a train-based action classic! Also pairs great with the current Seattle weather (SNOW for those of you outside the northwestern Shangri-La).

    I do have fond memories of Silver Streak as well. First pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. When Gene puts on blackface and the over-the-top rasta hat: comedy gold.

    Wilder + Pryor + train + 70s action-mystery hijinks = warmy goodness.

    There is an exception to the train-settings-are-inherently-cool theme though: Narrow Margin was kinda lame. That Steven Seagal flick is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, though.

    Related question – how do subway-oriented films rate???

  2. Lizzie Says:

    What about “Murder on the Orient Express?” (Rats – am I showing my age again?) That was a pretty big-deal 70’s era all-star cast, and a fairly cool period piece – Hercule Poirot murder mystery. And wasn’t “The Taking of Pelham, One-Two-Three” a subway story? Also, “Mimic” was both a monster movie, and a subway movie! And what do you think of that episode of the old “Twilight Zone” about the guy going home on a train who keeps “dreaming” about an old-fashioned small town? Yeah, trains make for very good settings for suspense-type stories. (Or schmaltzy ones, like “White Christmas!”)

  3. Lorraine Says:

    How about “Strangers on a Train” from 1951? Hey, we all get TCM don’t we! This is a great movie. And I loved the train sequence in last year’s “Wanted”.

    And “The Train Job” was an excellent Firefly episode. I know a few of us will agree on that.

  4. Alisa Says:

    This has nothing to do w/Transibarian, but I had to tell people that I know would appreciate a movie I just saw yesterday w/Rufus Sewell dressed in drag, and wearing ALOT of eyeliner……

    You may not be able to tell from my comments, but I like Shakespeare, and I will watch an occasional remake of a Shakespearian play, EXCEPT for the disaster w/Leo DeCaprio. If you are going to take a classic like Romeo and Juliet, and modernize it, DON’T use the original dialogue!!

    Anywho, I rented a disc set from Netflix called Shakespeare reinvented, and Rufus is in a remake of Taming of the Shrew, w/Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle). Rufus was Petruchio, and Shirley was Kate. Now I have to admit I’ve not seen or read the orginal Taming of the Shrew so I have nothing to compare the remake to, but I thought it was pretty great.

    I highly recommend these two discs. The disc contain the remake of Maccbeth w/James McAvoy as Macbeth, and remake Macbeth was awesome. Taming of the Shrew, Midnight Summer’s Dream, and Much Ado About Nothing w/Damian Lewis as Benedick.

  5. Lorraine Says:

    Alisa, I second your recommendation of the Sewell/Henderson adaptation of “Taming of the Shrew”. It’s outrageously fun. So nice to see Rufus doing something other than brooding and pouting. I like the “Much Ado” adaptation also. They are all part of a series called “Shakespeare ReTold”.

  6. Ellen Says:

    Dude, this it totally on my Netflix list!
    And speaking of Shakespeare… Has anyone seen “Hamlet 2”???

  7. Haidee Says:

    well, bad monster movie = Sars Wars. Zombie snakes are all the good!

    HAven’t seen this one but the Firefly ep is one of my favourites, as well as the SS. Do you lot in the US get the Merrick * Rosso Show? You probably won’t but they are here on the Comedy Channel in Aus and they have the funniest Steven Segall spoof ever! It’s probably on Youtube somewhere but since my download speed isn’t up to it I don’t go there.

  8. Lizzie Says:

    This Shakespeare stuff sounds great! I may try to rent some of that too. And the “Train Job” ep of “Firefly” was also great. But I THINK my favorite ep of “Firefly” was “Jaynestown.” And my favorite moment was when Mal was ready to toss Jayne out into space because he had tried to sell out Simon and River in the hospital story, and Jayne asked him to make something up, so the Tams wouldn’t know he had betrayed them, and that was what it took for Mal to let Jayne back in. Whoever said that that role was Adam Baldwin’s best made a good point!

  9. Lorraine Says:

    Lizzie, I totally agree with your Firefly favs. Adam Baldwin was wonderful as Jayne and my fav episode Jaynestown. I love the look on everyone’s faces as they try to absorb the idea of Jayne as a folk hero 🙂

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