Brad Anderson's Transsiberian

Though not one for literal smoke and mirrors, master of horror Brad Anderson, with his panache for arousing fear from harried reality and rotted atmosphere, is still a shaman. In his latest spooker, Anderson locates dread not just inside his characters' psyches but also in the lines across a babushka's face, the insides of a matryoshka doll, and Ben Kingsley's ushanka. The setting this time is the wintriest wasteland of Siberia, through which a train lumbers toward Moscow from China with a bobble-headed Christian dweeb (Woody Harrelson) and his wife Jessie (Emily Mortimer) on board, plus a lascivious Spaniard (Eduardo Noriega), a fishy narcotics officer (Kingsley), and a half-dozen other easily excitable foreigners seemingly pulled from Eli Roth's go-to central casting. At its queasy best—when absorbing the naturally phantasmagoric vibes of Siberia and surveying Jessie's grueling efforts to discard a backpack filled with unwanted goods—Transsiberian more subtly critiques our American sense of privilege than any of Roth's Hostel pictures. But just as nasty as the titular mode of transport is the script's wanton declaration of theme and a cynical and fashionable belief in moral grayness that may complement the frosty setting but nonetheless feels easy.

 
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