Brad Anderson's Transsiberian breathes some fresh air into the train picture since this type of transportation has lost favor with travelers and apparently filmmakers.
Starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, and Ben Kingsley, here is cinema that might be seen as a updated variation on Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. It's probably the best of its lot since Runaway Train with Jon Voight back in the mid-80s and makes the most of its locations to gradually invite peril for the viewer. It works noticeably well off of the inexperience and immaturity in being in a faraway place.
Harrelson and Mortimer are Roy and Jessie, an Iowa husband and wife, on a sight-seeing trip on their way to Moscow from Beijing after finishing up a church mission there. Roy is an affable guy who likes trains.
Going by train into Siberia (by the well-known titular route), the couple room with a handsome Spanish fellow, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), and his pretty teenage Canadian companion, Abby (Kate Mara of We Are Marshall).
The story starts to gain momentum when Roy misses a stop, thus the others exiting to wait for his arrival. In the wilderness the aspiring lenser in Jessie and Carlos leads to dire circumstances knowing his illicit side and her troubled past.
Roy reunites with his beloved on the next train, along with Kingsley's sly, joking Russian narcotics detective, Grinko.
Transsiberian then flexes its action muscles as it nearly races off of the tracks when it comes to human corruptibility.
British actress Mortimer, who was featured prominently in Dear Frankie and Redbelt, becomes a surprising fulcrum for Jessie's emotional instability. The ubiquitous Kingsley (Elegy, The Wackness) brings some pragmatic menace to the lively, sardonic Grinko who isn't very pleasant with suspects. And, Harrelson is effective in more subdued turn as a guy who gets more from pursuing his hobby than he wishes.
Anderson, in the end, tracks this thriller with atmosphere and authenticity through its dark, smuggling bumps, making for a rugged, caustic expedition with some barren, frigid delight.