I’m a huge Brad Anderson fan and was really looking forward to seeing his latest thriller, TRANSSIBERIAN, which had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. With the cast consisting of some of my favorite actors (Ben Kingsley, Woody Harrelson), I was sure this was going to be the film to beat – unfortunately it was mediocre at best.
In the film a Trans-Siberian train journey from China to Moscow becomes a thrilling chase of deception and murder when an American couple encounters a mysterious pair of fellow travelers.
Written by Bill Conroy and Anderson, the screenplay is extremely strong at many points throughout the film but seems a bit overwhelming. Instead of being a tight little thriller, the film is extremely long and carries a few too many plot maneuvers. I guess you can say this is a case of “over doing it”. Some of the plot points are extremely well concealed giving the turn of events a fresh twist, while others are tiring.
What carried the movie more than anything was the acting by Harrelson, Kingsley and especially Emily Mortimer. All played convincing characters – even Harrelson’s toupee played a big role (just kidding). Anderson’s directing style is always top notch, but oddly enough the cinematography was extremely annoying. I’m extremely sick of the “Filmax” look and don’t understand why they all have to look exactly the same… even if it does look nice. The use of blue is wayyyyy overdone and most of the other colors are drowned out leaving it bleak and cold looking. It’s insane how the use of a color can actually remove a level of intensity.
TRANSSIBERIAN is an ambitious effort that needs some reworking and a good 20-minutes cut from it… specifically in the first hour where nothing happens. As much as I didn’t hate the film I didn’t love it either. Anderson’s latest is your run of the mill thriller that just doesn’t attempt to step over the line at any point. I’d rather revisit classic from the past – like Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN – than ever sit through this again.