Starring: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley
Studio: First Look Studios FLP-12496 [Street date: Nov. 4, 08]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: English DD 5.1, 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: “The Making of Transsiberian,” Previews
Length: 111 minutes
Not a documentary on travel on the Transsiberian Railway by any means, this is a hard-hitting mystery-thriller in the style of Hitchcock which provided way more in drama and the unexpected than I was prepared for. Roy – an Iowa hardware store owner who keeps a model train layout in his basement – and his wife Jessie – an amateur photographer with a possibly dark past – have attended a meeting in Beijing of a charitable organization which adopts Chinese children. They find that the city is the Southern terminus of the Transsiberian Railway and when the event ends they can take the famed train all the way back to Moscow instead of flying. On the train they find themselves sharing a cabin with a young couple also from the West: Carlos – a Spaniard – and his young girlfriend Abby. Carlos is secretly transporting drugs disguised in Russian nesting dolls.
Roy becomes separated from the others at a train stop and Jessie is taken by Carlos to photograph an abandoned small Orthodox church, where a regrettable incident occurs. Back at the train, Roy returns with Ilya (another wonderful role for Kingsley) – a crooked ex-KGB detective who is actually after the drugs Carlos is smuggling and the money he was paid. Things then develop in startling fashion for the endangered Iowa couple, during which Roy’s fascination with trains serves to save their lives.
I think I experienced with this film the briefest time between seeing it in the theater and reviewing the DVD which has occurred. And since the theatrical showing was in a venue called Living Room Theaters – where everything is converted to hi-res digital files and projected in small rooms with optimum setups – there was little difference except in going from a ten-foot screen to a 56-inch one. The Blu-ray transfer is superb, and the excellent cinematography of the Siberian countryside and the train is compelling. The lead actors are all most believable, and the 5.1 surround is well-used in certain scenes. If you’re looking for a really chilling mystery film set in unfamiliar surroundings, look no further.
– John Sunier