October 9, 2008


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Transsiberian (R)
Woody Harrelson stars as half of an American couple tangled up in a mystery on the cross-Russia train in Transsiberian, a fun little suspense movie.

It’s the way-back week — not only did I get a Western but I got a mystery-on-a-train movie, which is an even rarer subgenre of film these days than the Western. Friendly, train-loving Roy (Harrelson) and his quiet photographer wife Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are finishing up a trip with their church to Beijing and heading back to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian train. He means it to be an adventure, one he hopes will please his wanderlust-having wife. She seems a little less psyched about being squished into a train for several days, especially when they find out that they have roommates in their cabin — the Spanish Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and the American Abby (Kate Mara), who with her dark eyes and her sullen expression is like a younger version of Jessie. Roy and Jessie, you see, have been having some tensions in their marriage, making Jessie a little susceptible, perhaps, to Carlos’ sly maybe come-ons. And in the very beginning of the movie, we meet Grinko (Ben Kingsley), who is some kind of drug-enforcement officer. His opening-scenes investigation of a violent crime helps give the movie an ominous feel from the beginning.

Transsiberian is more or less a straight-up suspense — what will happen next? — rather than a mystery where a part of the story is hidden from the audience. For a good chunk of the movie, Mortimer carries the scenes almost entirely like herself. It’s on her ability to look freaked out that we keep the tension moving through a part of the movie where Jessie and Roy are separated. She does an excellent job of looking terrified both by what is happening and by the choices she makes. The claustrophobic feel of the train — there literally is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide — helps to build the suspense and to heighten the sense that our characters, even before they notice it, are locked in a trap.

Transsiberian is an example of one of the true joys of movie-watching — it snuck in under my radar with its minor stars and almost old-fashioned plot but kept me riveted to the screen. B+

Rated R for some violence, including torture and language. Directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anderson and Will Conroy, Transsiberian is an hour and 51 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by First Look Studios. It is scheduled for release on DVD on Nov. 4.