Director: Brad Anderson
Running time: 111 mins
Screening: Fri 27 19:45 / Sat 28 14:30 / Sun 29 20:15
Although the Trans-Siberian railway through Russia and China offers an important and straight forward transport route for many people, it has long been idealised as the last frontier for adventure back packing. It is with this in mind, that Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian introduces its ominous music over an image of Jessie (Emily Mortimer) looking up at the railway map. As the journey introduces Jessie and husband Roy (Woody Harrelson) to an increasingly sinister mix of fellow travellers, Roy’s comment that “it’s like the wild wild east out here,” frames the tone for the rest of the film.
With a phrasebook and Lonely Plant guide providing little help, the couple are marked out, and mark themselves out, as the typical American tourists. In an alienating manner, languages other than English are only translated when necessary for plot exposition. This leaves the audience at a distance from the non-US characters and means that incidents such as the frustrated outburst from the Russian train hostess fall on deaf ears. This is a film that is very much expected to be experienced through the eyes of its American protagonists, regardless of the transnational route it takes and the heavy focus on the Spanish character Carlos (Eduardo Noriega). As the plot develops into a thrilling tale of drugs, murder and police threats Russia is reiterated as a sinister and backwards location. It is in the last half hour that things get really silly; a train theft, shots of a random helicopter and a head on collision make it clear where much of the film’s budget went. It is, however, particularly enjoyable to see Woody Harrelson playing the hyper-American evangelical train spotter throughout.