Sunday, August 24, 2008

Trouble Abound On This Transsibearn Ride

The next movie I will review is "Transsiberian" This is a thriller set on the legendary train that links the Far East and Europe, running from China and Mongolia to Russia. Following a stay in Beijing, Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer), a couple who are going through a rocky patch, decide to give their relationship one last go and have another adventure together, traveling on the Transsiberian from China to Moscow through exotic, wild and snow-laden places. On the train, Roy and Jessie discover that the days of the Transsiberian's glorious luxury have faded since the fall of the U.S.S.R. The famous trains former glamor has disappeared, leaving cold steel carriages and taciturn fellow passengers, reputed to include drug traffickers. They take refuge in the company of a fellow western couple who arrive in their shared compartment, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), who travel throughout the world giving language classes and re-selling handcrafts, such as, on this occasion, Russian Matryoshka dolls. Everything is going well until the four decide to get off the train at one stop. Roy gets separated from the rest of the group and the train carries on with the other three already back on board. Jessie, by now extremely worried, has no other option but to get off at the next station and wait until Roy comes on the following train. Abby and Carlos offer to wait with her. However, while they wait for him, Carlos tries to take advantage of Jessie and, in trying to defend herself, she ends up accidentally killing him. Terrified, she leaves the corpse in the snow. She then returns to the station, where Roy has finally arrived. Back together at last, Jessie tries to forget about what has happened. But the nightmare is only just beginning. She soon discovers that Carlos was in fact a drug dealer who was being pursued by corrupt police officers, led by Grinko (Ben Kingsley), and they are now chasing her. Unwittingly, Roy and Jessie get caught up in the dark world of smuggling and betrayal. And they know that while the train is in motion, there is no means of escape! The movie is a sadly average and underwhelming thriller. It begins with a long set-up where we discover the characters have marital problems and shady past lives. We're meant to wonder who Abby and Carlos are, what do they want, and will Carlos and Jessie wind up cheating on their partners with each other. But its so easy to see who the red herrings are and what the plot devices will be that this movie is less about suspense than about sitting back and waiting for it to finally happen already. Then when it finally does, we're left with Jessie reacting in supremely silly and just downright insane ways, she's running through the train like a crazy person trying to get rid of a bag full of drugs, she's lying to cops and her husband when honestly doing the exact opposite would be more beneficial, she's protecting a young girl she barely knows, she's deleting pictures that could possibly prove her case in the end. It's just one dumb move after another. The last 20 minutes of the movie goes off on a violent tangent but its still the best part of this otherwise lackluster screenplay. There were some things I did enjoy. The atmosphere with snow-laden landscapes and trees is phenomenal and the actors do their best to keep things at a high-pace, especially Emily Mortimer. Her character doesn't exactly work but Mortimer's emotional connection to her does. She begins the movie seeming suspiciously shady only later to layer on the dread and desperate panic of someone plunged into an extremely serious situation. And this is the type of role Harrelson could do in his sleep, playing a straight-laced, "golly-gee" type of American. His character is someone willing to be adventurous but also cautious and average at the same time. Noriega and Mara do nice work being deceptively dangerous, and Noriega in particular is suspiciously charming. And then you have Ben Kingsley, nailing the Russian accent while throwing in some hidden agenda behind the eyes as well. The movie is obvious at most points, you can clearly tell what is going to happen in many of the story's plot lines, and the agenda of Grinko is so clear, he should have just wore a neon sign around his neck. I give Transsiberian a 3 and on my avoidance scale I give it a 1.

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