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U.S. couple, Roy and Jessie, decide to take the long way home from their recent sojourn in Asia on the legendary Trans-siberian Express train from Beijing to Moscow. On their way, they meet another couple from the West, Carlos and Abby, with whom they quickly form a familiar bond that often unites fellow travellers away from home. When Roy accidentally gets separated from the group at a stopover, Jessie begins to realize that their compatriots aren't exactly who or what they seem to be. The real danger begins to surface as a deceitful Russian detective and locals terrorize Jessie in this unforgettable journey.
For more about Transsiberian and the Transsiberian Blu-ray release, see Transsiberian Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 29, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega
Director: Brad Anderson
» See full cast & crew
Transsiberian Blu-ray Review
Hop onto 'Transsiberian' for a thrilling adventure.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 29, 2008
In Russia, we have an expression: 'with lies, you may go ahead in the world, but you may never go back'.
Transsiberian is a taut thriller in the classic sense of the genre, featuring a pair of Americans in a strange land dealing with people, ideas, and situations that are as foreign to them as they soil they stand on. The movie succeeds because its characters are genuine people with their own quirks and likable personalities, but audiences cannot help but sense that one of them is ripe for exploitation, for a set-up to be a fall guy for some larger scheme he or she is not privy to before it's too late. The film examines issues and character traits such as trust, loyalty, faith, and inner strength, as each is tested, pushed to the limit, and re-tested. Character flaws, or perhaps human nature itself, are discovered and exploited, and a basic instinct of self-preservation alone engrosses the mind and causes one's physical, mental, and perhaps even spiritual foundations to waver, crack, and even collapse under the weight of the enormous stress of the entirety of the situation that is slow to build but is quick to deteriorate. Transsiberian is not groundbreaking or even memorable cinema, but it creates a tightly woven thriller that bests so many of the big-budget efforts that cling tightly to a basic formula, revel in predictability, and feature stiff, indifferent acting and direction. Transsiberian is refreshing, a film of modest origins, but one that is engrossing, smart, and well-crafted from both sides of the camera, a movie sure to leave audiences at least satisfied from the experience.
American missionaries Roy (Woody Harrelson, Semi-Pro) and his wife Jessie (Emily Mortimer, Redbelt) have just completed a mission trip with their church in Beijing, China, and set out on the long journey home, taking the Trans-Siberian railroad from Beijing to Moscow. On board, they meet Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and his American girlfriend Abby (Kate Mara, Shooter), and the quartet quickly become friendly travel companions. Appearances may be deceiving, however, and when Roy misses the train and Jessie must stick close to Carlos and Abby, the only two people she thinks she can trust in a foreign land, she becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of drugs and power, all the while falling under Carlos' alluring spell. Also entering the equation is a Russian narcotics officer by the name of Grinko (Ben Kingsley, Species) who suspects that there is more to the lives of the seemingly innocent American tourists than they lead him to believe.
Transsiberian is a solid thriller that is predictable only to a point, and leaves audiences guessing just how the film will be resolved. The plot takes several twists along the way but ends up faltering at the very end, as the film moves away from suspense and cranks up the action. That's inevitable in a film like this, however, but even through the more action-oriented sequences, the film's high tension remains. Transsiberian works, in part, because the film is slow to develop. The mystery unwinds at leisure, but the film smartly remains watchable as a human drama as it takes its time to develop several intriguing characters that are deeper than the typical paper-thin, uninteresting, generic thriller fodder found in many other films of this sort. Granted, the traits that the film builds for its characters are those that will be exploited in one way or another later on, but because the development is intriguing and the suspense worthwhile, not to mention the film's time constraints, Transsiberian's emphasis on building its characters to order may be overlooked. The real strength of the film lies in the actor's portrayal of these well-drawn characters. They play the spectrum of emotions, including joy, uncertainty, and fear with precision and ease. Woody Harrelson, in particular, stands above the crowd in his portrayal of Roy, a happy-go-lucky, boyish, sometimes dense individual that is thrust into the film's harrowing climax, taking on a brave façade but visibly shaking from fear. His portrayal is exemplary, his character pushed into overdrive through pure adrenaline and emotion alone, and he never overplays the part, retaining those same traits that made his a standout character to begin with, taking him only so far as one may find believable, and never crossing the line to superhero territory. While the remainder of the cast is above average, Harrelson steals the spotlight and, in a film with memorable characters and situations, tight pacing and solid dialogue, fine direction and nail-biting intensity, his performance, and the character he portrays, stands above the rest.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Video Quality
Transsiberian rolls onto Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The image sports some impressive depth, noted in the opening shot of the film, that of an old, cold, run-down ship yard, underneath the sky of a dreary, cloudy day. Colors are dull, the imagery matching the harsh Russian exteriors, but the image offers fine attention to detail. The cold palette is reflected in the imagery, from the dark, gray corners, the lifeless locales, the somewhat ghastly flesh tones, and bright objects against dark black and gray backgrounds. The lifeless, depressing look remains throughout the movie as tones of gray, green, and yellow dominate the screen, and even bright colors, like the reds of the booths and table cloths in the train's dining cars, are only moderately bright and almost lost in the wearisome imagery surrounding them. It seems fitting that a film taking place in such as harsh environment as this one take on such a tone; the mood of the film reinforces the notion that there is likely no better look for it. Overall, the detail of the transfer is very good. The various woven scarves, clothing, train exteriors and interiors, all feature rich texture and finely-tuned detail that makes the image come alive and sometimes appear to jump off the screen. Black levels are deep and inky, with only a few scenes where the darkest corners of the film brighten above true black. Transsiberian offers viewers a well above average transfer that captures the essence of the film well and generally looks great in high definition.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Transsiberian steams onto Blu-ray with a satisfactory but ultimately underpowered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Each frame offers an adequate audio accompaniment, though the richness and lifelike realism of the finest lossless tracks is sorely missed throughout. The sound is merely adequate, with inoffensive reproduction, but is certainly not the fulfilling, rich, lifelike experience a lossless track would have brought to the equation. Some scenes do offer a few grin-inducing moments. For example, a few exterior shots of the speeding train bring about room-rumbling bass as the locomotive crosses from one side of the room to the other with precise imaging. Interior train shots feature the most subtle of background ambience. Various shots of the crowded dining car, for example, feature laughter and chatter in the background and viewers will hear the occasional train whistle off in the distance. Surrounds come alive in a few scenes as the train speeds across the countryside, accompanied by a chilling wind blowing all around the soundstage. Dialogue reproduction is generally strong, and music plays nicely through the front channels. Transsiberian offers a somewhat strong lossy soundtrack, but the film features sufficient opportunity to benefit greatly from a lossless mix.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Transsiberian comes to Blu-ray with only one film-related supplement, entitled simply Making of Featurette (480p, 33:56). The feature includes interviews with the director, Brad Anderson, who recounts his personal journey on the Trans-Siberian railroad and its influence on what was to become the story, and ultimately this film. The piece moves on to interviews with cast members who share their experiences on the film and the characters that inhabit it. The piece looks at the camaraderie between the characters, the director's style and vision, the film's small scope and budget, set design, and more. This is a worthwhile piece for fans of the film. Also included are trailers for War, Inc., Sukyaki Western Django, Priceless, and Birds of America.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Transsiberian is an interesting thriller that surpasses many of its contemporaries thanks to a tightly-woven story, excellent pacing, interesting characters, and unique setting. What the film lacks in budget and scope it makes up for in heart and substance. The end result is a movie that isn't all that memorable, but one that won't disappoint too many viewers, insult the intelligence of its audience, or pander or sink to the lowest common denominator or take the easy way out. The film is well-thought-out and constructed, with obvious talent on display both in front of and behind the camera. Transsiberian is a film worth owning, because it is something that is easy to come back to every so often when the doldrums of the stereotypical big-budget thrillers being to sink in. The film's independent flair and passion for its material make it a winner. First Look's Blu-ray release of Transsiberian is hit-or-miss. The disc features fine video quality but fails to provide a lossless soundtrack or extensive supplements, though the making-of feature is excellent in its own right. Nevertheless, the movie makes the disc, and Transsiberian comes recommended.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - November 4th - November 4, 2008
As the Blu-ray sales gain momentum, you will continue to see more and more classic films being brought to the high definition format. Studios love selling the same film to you multiple times, and cashing in on Blu-ray is a concrete part of their strategy. Today ...
• Transsiberian Announced for Blu-ray - July 21, 2008
First Look Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer film 'Transsiberian' to Blu-ray on November 4th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No technical specs or special features have been announced at this time, ...
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