Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are an odd pairing. Roy is a geeky but merry hardware store owner who goes to church and loves old trains. Jessie is a photographer who is edgier and far more reserved than her happy-go-lucky husband. Jessie has left behind a bad girl past and settled down with nice guy Roy, but restlessness is still in her blood. The two have just finished a two week volunteer stint in China with Roy’s church group, and they decide to postpone the end of their journey by returning via the Transsiberian railroad, which winds through the heart of Russian’s frozen tundra.
Along the way the couple meets a pair of young travelers whom they befriend. All seems like a great adventure until Roy fails to reboard at one of the train stops, and events take a darker turn, quickly spiraling out of control. The train, which was initially a place of laughter and warmth, morphs into a place of danger, alien and strange. The traveling companions offer to help locate Roy, but it’s soon apparent that their motives may be less then pure. A moment of temptation leads to poor judgment on Jessie’s part, and what follows involves murder, mobsters, corruption and deceit.
Director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist,” “Next Stop Wonderland”) is a great hand at atmosphere, and he works it to his advantage. With the slightest of shifts, he transforms the train from comfort to claustrophobia and the landscape from exquisite beauty to formidable enemy. His settings are so impressive and dynamic that they virtually become characters in their own right. Mortimer delivers as a mentally disintegrating wife, but it’s Harrelson who provides the most fun, playing against type as the down-home Roy. While not the most original of thrillers, “Transsiberian” nevertheless provides enough unexpected twists and turns to make for a pleasant ride.