Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

Grinko (Ben Kingsley), a jaded detective, examines a corpse on board a freighter. Meanwhile, two Americans who have been working on church-related projects in Beijing board the Tran Siberian Express heading for Moscow.

Our two innocents abroad, Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) soon meet up with a more worldly wise couple, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara). Roy has trains on his mind and Carlos has Jessie on his mind as they make their way across China and Russia. Apparently the Tran Siberian Express is a major drug route and Carlos does have something to hide. Jessie is not quite as pure as driven snow, either. As the sexual tensions build the two disparate storylines begin to thread together.

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Writer/director Brad Anderson is no stranger to the Sundance Festival. His debut feature, The Darien Gap, showed there in 1996 and his wonderfully quirky romantic comedy Next Stop, Wonderland appeared in 1998. He also helmed the underrated and very spooky Session 9 and The Machinist.

Transsiberian arrives with an impeccable cast and a noble aspiration, to be a Hitchcockian thriller with lashings of Agatha Christie-style mystery, particularly after Grinko boards the train.

The initial set up is exemplary, assuming you can accept Harrelson as a mild-mannered, God-fearing type. Noriega is a delight, exuding sexual charisma and bad boy charm effortlessly. Mortimer is also very good, as we begin to see that her goody-two-shoes image hides a steely interior. Woody is a worry; he never convinces us that he is a character who couldn't look after himself.

A bigger problem is the plotting. We were doing so well until around the 2/3rd mark when an incident occurs which, while visually exhilarating, requires a major leap of credibility, after which one increasingly unlikely incident follows another, saddling the characters with exceptionally dumb behaviour and silly dialogue until the whole thing goes off the rails.

I suspect that my low star rating reflects that I was looking forward to it, only to be tragically disappointed.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2008
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Mystery on the Tran Siberian Express.

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Brad Anderson, Will Conroy

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

Year: 2008

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: UK/Germany/Spain

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