Americans abroad. Roy and Jessie finished a volunteer stint in China. He loves trains, so they go home via the Trans-Siberia Express. There are strains in the relationship, including her past. They meet Carlos, a Spaniard, traveling with Abby, a young American. Carlos keeps close to Jessie, and when Roy is left behind and waits a day for the next train so he can catch up, Jessie and Carlos take a trip into the dead of winter to photograph a ruined church. Carlos may be running drugs, so, later, when Roy catches up and introduces Jessie to his new pal, an English speaking Russian narcotics detective, he's the last person Jessie wants to see. Will the Siberian desolation be their undoing? Written by
Roy and Jessie set out from Beijing and immediately deal with Russian staff on the train. In fact, the train is manned by Chinese staff with a Chinese restaurant carriage whilst the train is still in China. See more »
Kill off all my demons, Roy, and my angels might die, too.
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My favorite movie from the first day of Sundance 2008. Roy (a very young-looking Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are a young Iowa couple, returning from a church humanitarian mission in China via the Transsiberian Express, where they encounter the much more adventurous Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara). Boarding mid-way is Ben Kingsley, who we have learned from the opening scene is a Moscow police detective.
Like a Hitchcock classic, we are grabbed from the start with a feeling that things are not all as they seem, and don't lose that uneasy feeling that something very bad is going to happen until bad things really start happening. The tension is eerie and relentless, with telling glances and social conversation that suggest the relationships between these four are going to take a disturbing turn. Written by Director Brad Anderson (The Machinist), and inspired by a Transibberian trip he once took, the script is inspired and very tight, the characters infused with extraordinary depth and interest, the Russian state a harrowing umbrella and the dialog consistently powerful and compelling. (My favorite line, from Ben Kingsley, goes something like this: "We have a saying in Russia: You can always go forward with a lie, but you can never go back.")
As Anderson said in the Q&A, the confined spaces of trains make for heightened drama. Shot in Lithuania, the cinematography is haunting, capturing the mysterious, bleak and unsettled state of post-Soviet Russia, which makes for a marvelous backdrop to the action.
This movie should do well in national release. Maybe very well.
Sundance Moments: Brad Anderson and all the principals of the cast were at the Sundance premiere. More so than usual, they all praised Anderson as an extraordinary and meticulous director, one of the greats. Ben Kingsley noted that what attracted him to the movie, besides the Russian sub-story, was that the characters were archetypes and not caricatures, which is quite true. Anderson talked about how bitterly cold it was shooting in Lithuania.
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