Tuesday, 20 January 2009

“Transsiberian”. A Review Of The 2008 Movie Now Released On BLU RAY.

"Remember What Your Mother Told You...Don't Talk To Strangers..."

In 1985 I remember being glued to a tremendous chase movie by ace Japanese director Akira Kurosawa called "Runaway Train" which featured escaped convicts Jon Voight and Eric Roberts on a unmanned out-of-control speeding diesel ploughing its brutish way through the Alaskan wilderness. "Transsiberian" goes for the same canvas - only this time the malevolent monster is ploughing its way through the unforgiving wastes of Russia en route to Beijing in China.

On board the crowded behemoth are Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer as the hapless idealistic religious couple who are befriended by a young set of cute backpackers, the devilishly handsome South American Eduardo Noriega and the strangely silent American Kate Mara. Following close behind is Russian policeman Ben Kingsley and his less-than-decent-to-women sidekick Thomas Kretschmann. You can guess the rest...

Although the naivety of the two principal characters is a little difficult to swallow at times - especially in today's clued-up world - the story chugs along nicely - and at times grimly - from one ditzy disaster to another. Emily Mortimer is fantastic as a woman who grits her teeth and battles to save herself and her marriage to a good man - surrounded by snakes, corrupt authorities, locked doors and blocked toilets. "Transsiberian" also works of course because of the quality of its top principal cast - Kingsley and Harrelson are brilliant as always, but in different ways, and Noriega and Mara are believable delicious eye-candy any man or woman would fall for.

But almost more than the actors is the 'other' character in the movie - the terrain itself and its people. The abandoned churches, the cruddy old train stations, the dense pine forests, the drunk locals singing on the crowded carriages showing off their Gulag war wounds - it's a world you rarely see in cinema nowadays - and therefore brings a freshness to the story that makes it all so mightily watchable. And all of this is told with a backdrop of dread lingering over their every move - the feeling that as an American or a European, if you actually were lost in the wilds of the snowy tundra, then who'd find you? And in the corrupt halls of Russia's infrastructure, who'd even care? A clever angle on an old story.

Trundling its way to a very satisfactory conclusion, Paul Anderson's film must have been a cinematic treat at the local fleapit. My DVD version was o.k., but a friend of mine played me the American Blu Ray version which came out in the States last year (it's due Feb 2009 in the UK) and it is gobsmacking to look at - it makes a HUGE difference to your enjoyment of the film. Buy or hire that version - rather than the DVD.

"Transsiberian" is a very entertaining watch - not a five-star masterpiece by any means - but a great ride nonetheless. Highly recommended.

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