Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Transsiberian" with Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley

An absolutely stunning movie. Everything, from the script to the direction, and the performances of each and every actor, make this a flawless film. Set in Russia along the route of the Trans Siberian Railway also makes this movie a visually brilliant thriller, which you do not want to miss.

Roy and his wife Jessie (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) are returning from China through Russia via the Trans Siberian Railway. They are traveling from Beijing, where they have been involved in a church outreach program for children, to Moscow, and then home to America. What is that old saying about "the best laid plans of mice and men?" It clearly applies here.

Roy is an avid fan of old trains and locomotives, which is what leads the couple to take the train, rather than flying home. Jessie is a photographer with a troubled past. Her marriage to Roy has turned her life around and she is thinking of publishing a book of her photos. This trip will give her ample opportunity to indulge that passion.

When Roy and Jessie meet Carlos and Abby (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara), a couple traveling through Russia on the way back to Spain, all is not what it appears to be. The couple is a bit secretive, and tension begins to mount between Carlos and Jessie, who is trying to live a clean life with her husband.

When the naive Roy gets off at a remote stop to look at the different train engines, Carlos deliberately loses him, and Roy is left behind. When Jessie discovers he is missing she leaves the train at the next stop to wait for him to catch up. Carlos and Abby stay with her.

Carlos manages to entice Jessie to accompany him alone to a remote, ruined Russian Orthodox Church, under the guise of taking photos. Once they arrive at the church, Carlos becomes physically attentive to Jessie, who at first rebuffs his advances. During the push and pull of the emotional struggle, Carlos becomes violent, attempting to rape Jessie, who then uses a wooden plank to kill him. She returns to the train and is rejoined by Roy. She says nothing of what has happened, or where Carlos might be.

Roy, on his journey to rejoin his wife, has met and befriended Russian Police Inspector Grinko (Ben Kingsley) who has been following the trail of Carlos, who is a drug smuggler. To complicate matters even further, Jessie was aware of the smuggling and is actually in possession of some heroin, disguised as Bubushka Dolls. Carlos placed the dolls in Jessie's baggage, without her knowledge, prior to the events at the church. She is now frantic as she attempts to dispose of the contraband while confined to a train, under the watchful eyes of Inspector Grinko.

What happens to Abby, and what Jessie chooses to do about it, are the key questions that keep you glued to this film. The interaction of the two women, filled with mysterious undercurrents, played against the irrepressible innocence of Roy, bring a high tension to this magnificent film.

With a climax that keeps you on edge until the credits begin to roll, you don't want to miss this film. Agatha Christie would be proud.

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