Monday, September 8, 2008


Brad Anderson is quickly establishing himself as a noir director to watch. He has directed episodes of The Wire and The Shield and his last two features, The Machinist and Transsiberian, have been dripping with black Hitchcockian humor and a fine feel for noir, mainly of the James M. Cain variety (where-did-I-leave-my-glasses-type of stuff, covering up the crime suspense). But I don't really want to discuss his latest, Transsiberian, too heavily because, honestly, not much happens for the first half or so.

It's not a bad thing, though. We are introduced to Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer's characters, an Iowa couple coming off a church service project in Beijing who want to take the Trans-Siberian railroad from Beijing to Moscow before heading back the Midwest, a huge journey that takes eight days to complete. Harrelson is extremely earnest and naive as Roy, the train-obsessed hardware store owner who married reformed "bad girl" Jessie despite their obvious differences. Their train ride was actually Roy's idea, an attempt to show his wife that he was more adventurous than she might have thought. Along the way they meet a young couple who speaks English, fellow American Abbie and handsome Spaniard Carlos. They all share a cramped car together (the claustraphobia in this movie is intense) and it quickly becomes noticeable that Carlos and Abbie are not who they claim to be and that Carlos and Jessie are attracted to one another.

Then shit starts to go down.

The pleasures of this movie are in the surprises along the way so don't watch trailers or read more descriptive reviews if you can help it. Just know that after the long first act things really get intense and exciting and blackly hilarious. And not like "Oh isn't that a clever line" hilarious, but like Torn-Curtain-Paul-Newman-taking-ten-minutes-to-kill-some-dude sort of hilarious. It's good, dark stuff.

And I hate it when first-half-of-the-movie twists are revealed, anyway. Terminator 2, The Truman Show, The Crying Game - all those movies would have been even greater than they already are if trailers and reviewers hadn't given away the awesome twists that happen before the hour mark. This movie is the same way - go in blind. You'll thank me for it.

I hope that this becomes a sleeper. It's only in limited release right now in the Twin Cities. It seems accessible enough to play at the multiplexes. It is sort of ridiculous to me when crime movies are playing at the art house theaters. Don't crime movies have mass appeal anymore? My favorite movie of the year thus far, In Bruges, initially played only in Uptown but eventually broke wide, becoming hit. Back in Uptown it played for something like five months at The Lagoon! Transsiberian isn't nearly as good as In Bruges, but I think if you liked In Bruges you'll have a good time at Transsiberian.

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