The Independent Film Festival of Boston opened yesterday at the Somerville Theatre with the new Brad Anderson film “Transsiberian”. Anderson has a pretty good record so far, with Next Stop Wonderland, Session 9, and The Machinist, so I was rather excited to see his new work.
Transsiberian follows Jessie (Emily Mortimer) and Roy (Woody Harrelson) as they return from an aid mission in China. Roy, as a huge train nerd, wants to take his wife on a bit of an adventure, so they take the Transsiberian railway from China to Moscow. They share a cabin with Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), a couple who appears to have some secrets. As you may guess, some bad things ensue during this week-long journey.
The previous paragraph sounds makes this film sound cookie-cutter, but I’m happy to report that every time I felt I had the movie figured out it threw me a great curve ball. There were times where I felt the pace bog down a bit, but just as I started to think about it I would get surprised by a twist. These twists didn’t feel contrived, they weren’t bricks over the head, they were subtle surprises that drew you further into the story.
The movie wasn’t perfect, but it was really good. Mortimer was clearly the star, and she delivered a fantastic performance. The supporting actors were all solid as well, although Harrelson’s character was more of a caricature, being the comic relief in a rather serious film.. Unfortunately, his levity felt shoehorned in at times… When the film ended, my first instinct was that it needed about 10 minutes trimmed, but I think this was a kneejerk reaction. In all reality, if it weren’t for the moments of feeling slightly bogged down, I don’t think the payoff of the twists would have felt as special.
After the film, the director, co-writer, and Sir Ben Kingsley himself did a very nice Q&A session, even in the face of some rather rude audience members who were talking over them and getting up and leaving en masse mid sentence. But the three of them gave pretty good, considered answers to all of the questions asked.