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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 Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 22, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 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
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 22, 2009
Subtly political and impressively misleading, "Transsiberian" (2008) proves that Brad Anderson is a director with a bright future. Parallels with Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) are probably inevitable during key scenes, but the film certainly has a look and style of its own. Courtesy of UK-based Icon Home Entertainment.
Earlier today, I was trying to recall what the last good thriller that I saw was. Since I could not remember, I looked through my library to see what the last thrillers I've added up were. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that none of the ones that I've bought were Hollywood-made films. My last purchases were Emmanuel Carrère's La Moustache a.k.a The Mustache (2005), a French thriller about a man who cannot reconstruct his past after he shaves off his mustache; Guillaume Canet's Ne le dis a personne a.k.a Tell No One (2006), another French thriller about a very complicated murder case; and Christian Petzold's Yella (2007), a German thriller about a couple with a fascinating history.
It could very well be that I missed all of the good thrillers that Hollywood produced during the last couple of years, so maybe someone could send me a note with a few good suggestions. On the other hand, aside from William Friedkin's Bug (2006), a film that does not fully employ the key elements we typically associate with the thriller genre, I can honestly say that no Hollywood-produced thriller has had me excited in a very long time.
Brad Anderson's Transsiberian did. This is a film with an excellent story told by a director who clearly knows how to mislead his audience. The movie stars Woody Harrelson (Money Train) and Emily Mortimer (Young Adam) playing an American couple on their way from Beijing to Moscow. They get on the famous Trans-Siberian Express where they meet the charming Carlos (Eduardo Noriega, Novo) and his girlfriend Abby (Kate Mara, Shooter). We learn that Carlos is a Spaniard and Abby an American originally from Seattle. The two couples become very close and eventually share some, but not all, of their secrets.
Along the way, we are also introduced to a Russian detective, Grinko (Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast), who is on his way to a conference in Moscow. He also befriends the American couple and ends up teaching them about his country, his people, and the post-perestroika times.
Let's fast-forward a bit. Carlos attempts to seduce the wife of his new friend. She rejects him but we learn a lot about her that surprises us. Grinko also has a secret of his own; we find out more about it when another Russian detective gets on the Trans-Siberian Express. Abby also undergoes a sizable character transformation. Finally, when Woody Harrelson's protagonist gets off the train to take some fresh air and then disappears, we begin to suspect that there might be something about him that we don't yet know.
Transsiberian works exceptionally well because it manages to keep us guessing until the very end. Each time we learn more about its protagonists and begin thinking that we might have finally figured them out, we end up being pleasantly disappointed by yet another detail of their stories that allows for a completely different read of the events taking place on the screen. This is also a film that does not necessarily avoid all of the clichés we have come to associate with the genre it belongs to, but when it does resort to them, they are blended into its narrative with a remarkable sense of finesse.
Cinematographer Xavi Giménez's terrific ability to capture the beauty of the Siberian tundra as well as the post-communist landscape of the Russian state probably has a lot to do with the film's terrific aura. As a result, Transsiberian is as fascinating to behold as it is tempting to fully deconstruct. Finally, the film also features an unusually strong soundtrack courtesy of famous singer, composer, and showman Alfonso Vilallonga (Princesas).
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Brad Anderson's Transsiberian arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Icon Home Entertainment.
There are some key differences between the US release of Transsiberian, courtesy of First Look Studios, and the UK release by Icon Home Entertainment. First of all, unlike the US release which boasts a VC-1 encode, the UK release relies on a MPEG-4 AVC encode. Second, even though the two releases appear practically identical, the UK disc actually has a slightly better saturated color-scheme (the blue hues throughout the film are a great example). This being said, the clarity and contrast of the UK release are very strong. For example, the trip to the abandoned church in the middle of the tundra looks absolutely terrific. Furthermore, those of you with digital projectors will also notice how impressively tight the transfer for Transsiberian is. Finally, I could not see this film in my local theater, but I must assume that this exceptionally strong presentation comes very close to what the theatrical print looks like; this UK-produced Blu-ray disc is indeed that strong. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing debris, scratches, or stains to report here. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc which you will not be able to play on your Region-A PS3 or SA).
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (for the record, the US release of Transsiberian comes only with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks). Well, to make a long story short, the UK disc certainly has the edge in the audio department. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very well mixed and I think that it is utterly disappointing that it is not on the US disc. Specifically in terms of bass and rear channel activity, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track adds substantially more to the overall viewing experience than the Dolby Digital 5.1 track does (the train collision is probably the best example that I could point out). On the other hand, the dialog is crystal clear and very easy to follow. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or drop-outs to report here. For the record, Icon Home Entertainment have provided optional English HOH subtitles for the main feature.
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In addition to ten deleted scenes (I hope I counted them right), on this Blu-ray disc you will also find a standard "Making-Of" featurette where director Brad Anderson explains how Transsiberian came to exist. Apparently, the film was inspired by the director's trip to Russia after he graduated from college as well as his desire to learn more about Russians and their culture. Indeed, this is a very interesting piece that sheds plenty of light to Transsiberian as well as its characters and fascinating locations. (Note: All of the extras on this Blu-ray disc are in standard-def PAL).
Transsiberian Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Transsiberian is a film that certainly tells a very interesting story. It is beautifully-lensed, very well paced, and terrifically acted. If you are in the mood for an intelligent thriller, I strongly recommend taking a look at it. The Blu-ray disc herein reviewed, courtesy of Icon Home Entertainment, is of very good quality. As I noted earlier, the UK release of Transsiberian not only arrives with a different video encode, but it also boasts an exclusive English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. If you could play Region-B releases, you should certainly avoid the US release and opt for the UK Blu-ray. Highly Recommended.
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Transsiberian Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Transsiberian Announced for UK Release - February 6, 2009
Icon Home Entertainment has announced that they are bringing the Brad Anderson directed film 'Transsiberian' to Blu-ray on March 2nd, day-and-date with the DVD release. Technical specs have not been announced at this time. Special features include cast and crew ...
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