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Transsiberian

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    Ian Jane
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  • Transsiberian

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    Released by: First Look Studios
    Released on: 11/4/08
    Director: Brad Anderson
    Cast: Woody Harrelson, Ben Kingsly, Emily Mortimerm, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega, Thomas Kretschmann
    Year: 2008

    The Movie:

    From the director of the criminally underrated Session 9 and The Machinist, Brad Anderson's Transsiberian is a fine example of 'less is more' filmmaking. The movie follows a couple named Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) who are on their way home from a China where they were doing some Church sponsored missionary work. Their method of transportation? The Transsiberian Express, which suits Roy just fine as he's big into trains while Jessie enjoys snapping pictures with her camera. The pair end up sharing a cabin with a younger couple named Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and girlfriend Abby (Kate Mara) and things soon start to get a little awkward. While Jessie is fairly quiet, Abby is even more reserved while Carlos' wayward glances towards Roy's pretty wife make his intentions quite clear.

    During one of the train's stops, the guys decide to go check out some old steam engines while the girls go for a walk. Roy winds up missing the train and the three remaining travelers decide to get off at the next stop and wait for him. None of the railway employees are able to tell Jessie where her husband is, however, and Jessie begins to notice that the three of them are being tailed by a Russian investigator (Ben Kingsley) who may or may not know more about her Carlos and Abby then she does.

    With the set up out of the way, let it suffice to say that Transsiberian does not go in the direction that you initially think it's going to. There plot weaves its way around and toys with audience expectations quite cleverly and the resulting film is all the more suspenseful for it. There's a lot of subtle hints and the very realistic approach to shooting the film without the need for flashy camerawork or crazed effects grounds the film in the real world quite nicely. You leave the film with the very definite feeling that this is something that could very well happen.

    While the film is shot in a minimalist style, that doesn't mean it isn't a nice looking picture, however. The snowy landscapes that the story takes place in add an appropriately ominous vibe to the whole ordeal and the cinematography does a good job of making the train feel just a little bit claustrophobic. The real reason to watch the film is for the performances, however. Woody Harrelson has always been good at playing innocent 'white bread' characters and Anderson casts him well here. His on screen relationship with Emily Mortimer is just awkward enough that you can believe them together while Noriega and Mara add a nice sense of suspicious motivation to the cast. Kingsley over does it a couple of times in the film but his over the top moments aren't so far gone that you get pulled out of the movie and when he's more restrained, he's very good here.

    In a world where mainstream dreck takes up the bulk of the screens in theaters around the world it's a shame that this gem of a film didn't get a bigger theatrical release. Hopefully through home video it'll find the audience that it deserves.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    First Look Studios presents Transsiberian in a great 1080p VC-1 encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that really does a great job of bringing the movie to life. There's a ton of detail in both the foreground and the background of the image and the very cool looking color scheme is rendered pretty much perfectly. Black levels stay nice and strong and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the image is crisp and sharp from start to finish.

    The only audio option on this release is a standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track in English. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. While it's regrettable that there's no lossless track here, at least this 5.1 mix is a good one. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The train sound effects sound really good with plenty of punch and the lower end rumbles into the mix nicely without overpowering the performers or the score too much at all. There's plenty of good channel separation and effects routed through the rear speakers and all in all, this is a well designed mix.

    Aside from a couple of trailers for other First Look Studios releases, the only supplement on this release is a documentary entitled The Making Of Transsiberian. Clocking in at over half an hour in length, this is a fairly decent look at what went into getting the picture finished. There's plenty of on set footage here as well as some interview bits with the cast and crew and a serious examination of what Anderson was trying to accomplish with this project. All in all it's a pretty interesting piece, too bad it isn't presented in HD as the non-anamorphic SD transfer looks fairly sad compared to the nice transfer afforded to the feature itself.

    The Final Word:

    A surprisingly well made and tense thriller, Transsiberian is a rock solid film that features some great performances and a genuinely engaging storyline. First Look has done a nice job with the audio and the video and the bonus documentary is a welcome addition to what is an all around nice package.

    Want more info? Hit the First Look Studios website by clicking here!
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