“Transsiberian” is a riveting if not odd thriller where we never know what is really going to happen. But we also get a sense that the screen writers really did not know what was going to happen next. This movie is like a mixed bag of genres that don’t seem to fit together, but I have to recommend it because it is never uninteresting.
Following a stay in Beijing, Roy and Jessie, 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 train’s former glamour 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 and Abby, who travel throughout the world giving language classes and re-selling handcraft, 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 left 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.
If you think by now you know where the movie is going, think again. One of the strange pleasures of this movie is that it constantly rips the carpet out from under us, giving us some outrageous plot twists. One results in one of the main characters dangling from the end of a speeding train a pretty intense sequence.
The movie was directed by Brad Anderson, who has brought us the creepy “Session 9” and the mind bending “The Machinist”. He seems to enjoy directing atmospheric thrillers where everyone, including the people creating the film, don’t really seem to know what is going on. Here I think he directs his best looking film. Everything is shot against cold, snow covered, desolate landscapes. Now if he can get a handle on these stories, we might have something really special.