I refuse to cause you the same agony while reading this review that I felt while seeing this film.
Ladies and gentlemen, Transsiberian finally made its way transamerica (whoa, another movie) to Richmond, VA amid accolades and fanfare and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of like 5000. And I could not be more excited about it!* Yes, this whimsical romp is about two American tourists, Jessie (Emily Mortimer) and Roy (Woody Harrelson),** merrily chugging their away across the cheerful wasteland of Siberia on the railroad that might be more aptly named the “TranSMILEberian Express.” Director Brad Anderson is no stranger to lighthearted amusement — you may have had the pleasure of catching his earlier film, The Machinist, which chronicles Christian Bale‘s quest to lose some excess poundage via the somewhat unconventional diet of pure guilt!
The folks in Transsiberian are no exception. Chasing the bliss that is their marriage, Jessie and Roy meet a delightful young couple, Abby (Kate Mara) and Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), and the four develop a strong relationship that is sure to deeply affect the rest of their lives… for the better! Though they don’t know it, gruff police detective with a heart of gold, Grinko (Ben Kingsley) is about to catch up with them and kick off a classic comedy of errors during which no one ever tortures young girls. Things quickly escalate from good to great, and, as you sit in the theatre, you will feel your soul expanding with unadulterated joy as the film progresses.
You know those movies like You’ve Got Mail or She’s All That? Movies about people who start off sad and a little bit lonely who finally find another person who appreciates them for who they are (and who they are is a really neat, creative person who are unlikely to traffic drugs or attempt rape). Transsiberia isn’t like those movies at all! It’s even more cheerful! It’s so cheerful I had to literally sit on my hands to keep from waving them in the air like I just don’t care! I even looked around the theatre at one of the most side-splitting parts, and all I could see was light reflected off grins and eyes filling up with appreciative tears. Not one person lurched towards the exit swearing never to travel anywhere ever again, and hardly anybody whispered to their neighbor “If this doesn’t stop soon, I will find a way to commit suicide in this theatre.”
Watch out, Wall-E! You’re no longer the feel-good film of the year. Transsiberia is hot on your tail! Gosh, the way that Russian police disregard the law, endangering the inherent security that we feel because of our automatic trust in authority figures still makes me laugh out loud when I think of it! What a gas to be alone and friendless, surrounded by absolutely indifferent and borderline hostile faces. How romantic to be at the mercy of the below-zero-degree elements in just a thin sweater and no shoes! That airhead Jessie! Tossing her warm jacket and gloves just because of some little bloodstains! What will she do next!?!
You’ll find out when you hop on board Transsiberia – the film that definitely will not cause you to slump your shoulders over with dread and dig your fingernails into your palms! Make sure you don’t forget your one way ticket to fun!
*It’s not that this movie wasn’t well-made (although with a cheeseball ending and some really overt themes), but please, if you are sensitive like I am to movies like A Simple Plan and Very Bad Things, where everything goes from awful to difficult to watch, and stupid decisions inevitably lead their makers to their doom, skip this film.
**Terribly fine acting, for real. In fact, the directing was good too. And even much of the writing. I’m actually pretty sure that the bad taste that this movie left in my mouth has mostly to do with the fact that I am in general annoyed both by films that cause me to cringe for two hours and by films that have to keep repeating their themes to you so that you really and truly get them. It’s almost like they’re repeatedly smacking themes into your head with a club from a fence and leaving your corpse to be covered by the snow. That’s actually not a bad description of how it felt to experience this solid slice of filmmaking — head, club, corpse, snow.***
***The theme, in case you were wondering, is that she is trying to beat her personal demons into submission and in doing so, accidentally kills them off. But it works, it seems, because she sure is pleased as punch with her husband after that. Spouses, take note, I guess?