Friday, April 25, 2008

Transsiberian and Sir Ben Kingsley in Somerville

Transsiberian opened the IFFBoston this year.

Director Brad Anderson and co-writer Will Conroy serve up a tension filled train trip through Siberia, with more than a little Hitchcock along for the ride, rubbing up against the post-Soviet Russian underbelly.

Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer play husband and wife, taking a once-in-a-lifetime side-trip through Russia after a short-term missions trip to China with their church.

Fine performances throughout, especially Moritmer as Jessie, the not-quite redeemed missionary wife struggling to move beyond her past. And Eduardo Noriega as their magnetic and dangerous fellow traveler.

And of course, the aforementioned Sir Ben playing Grinko, the Russian narcotics inspector--and as one would expect, much more Sexy Beast than Gandhi in this one. And effective he is, wearing his sable hat, slovic accent and attitude of resigned post-Soviet opportunism as if he was born to them.

If there's a weak link at all it's Harrelson as Roy, the naive optimist. I just didn't buy the vodka-swilling evangelical bit. The way he plays him, Roy is maybe one-part missionary, two-parts frat boy and three-parts corn-fed Midwestern rube. But it's not entirely the actor's fault. As scripted, he's about as credible as a Nancy Pelosi Bible verse.

The cinematography is solid, contrasting the vast desaturated snowy wastes outside the train, with the threadbare hothouse of the lounge car and sleeper cabins inside, featuring stopped up toilets and menacingly indifferent customer service where eventually it seems the only true freedom left is the freedom to smoke pretty much anywhere.

Despite one sickeningly graphic interrogation scene where I feared we were heading into Eli Roth territory, director Anderson pulls back quickly, before the mood veers irredeemably into torture porn, getting back on the rails again to deliver a satisfying final twist or two.


An audience Q&A followed the screening.

Director Brad Anderson

Sir Ben Kingsley and scriptwriter Will Conroy


Our friends at our local film collaborative New Film Nation (formerly Beanywood) have posted an interview with director Brad Anderson, filmed on a balmy Somerville sidewalk outside Orleans restaurant right after the premier:

(photos and text ©2008 Brad Kelly)