Transsiberian (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrad Anderson
Produced byJulio Fernández
Written by
  • Brad Anderson
  • Will Conroy
Music byAlfonso Vilallonga
CinematographyXavi Giménez
Edited byJaume Martí
  • Castelao Producciones
  • UFA
  • Future Films UK
Distributed byIcon Film Distribution
Release date
  • January 18, 2008 (2008-01-18) (Sundance)
  • July 18, 2008 (2008-07-18) (Limited)
  • September 5, 2008 (2008-09-05)
Running time
111 minutes
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • Lithuania
Box office$5.9 million[1]

Transsiberian is a 2008 thriller film, set on the Trans-Siberian Railway, in which an American couple's journey from China to Russia becomes a nightmare after they befriend a pair of fellow travellers.

An international co-production of Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Lithuania, the film was directed by Brad Anderson and stars Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer and Ben Kingsley. Filming began in December 2006 in Vilnius, Lithuania, with additional photography in Beijing and Russia. It premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in January 2008, followed by a series of other international film festivals. It had a limited United States release on July 18, 2008, succeeded by limited cinema releases in a few more countries, before moving over to the DVD and TV market.


An American couple, Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer), take the train from Beijing to Moscow on their return home from a Christian mission in China. Roy befriends their cabin mates, a Spanish man, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), and his Seattle-born girlfriend, Abby (Kate Mara). Jessie does not share her husband's warmth but Carlos shows Jessie his souvenir matryoshka dolls.

When Roy misses the train in Irkutsk while sightseeing, Jessie is alone with Carlos and Abby. She gets off the train at Ilanskaya to wait for Roy. Carlos and Abby get off too, claiming she would be unsafe alone. In a restaurant, Jessie sees a doll nearly identical to those of Carlos. Abby is upset when she mentions this and goes to bed. Jessie begs Carlos not to involve Abby in his activities. The next morning, Carlos comes to Jessie's room, tells her his shower is broken and asks to use hers. Jessie receives a summons from reception and leaves Carlos in her room. At reception, she receives a call confirming that Roy will join her, and Carlos convinces her to go on a trip into the wilderness, where they find a ruined church.

Jessie, an amateur photographer, starts taking pictures. When Carlos makes advances, she first refuses but then surrenders. They begin kissing, but she changes her mind and asks him to stop. He continues, becomes aggressive and chases her. She becomes terrified and kills him with a fence post. She returns to the station and rejoins Roy on the train.

Ilya Grinko (Ben Kingsley), a narcotics officer whom Roy befriended, is their new cabin mate. Jessie finds Carlos' dolls in her suitcase and realizes that he hid them when he was in her room. Talking to Grinko, Jessie realizes that Carlos was smuggling heroin, and unsuccessfully tries to get rid of the dolls. She panics when Grinko becomes suspicious. When she returns to her cabin to find Roy examining the dolls, she breaks down and explains their origins, though without telling Roy about Carlos' death. They give Grinko the dolls, who seems satisfied they were uninvolved.

The next morning, they awake to discover that most of the carriages have departed, with the passengers; only Grinko and his partner Kolzak Yushenkov (Thomas Kretschmann) remain. They stop the train in the middle of nowhere and take Jessie and Roy to an abandoned military bunker, where Abby is being tortured. Grinko is bribed by a Russian drug lord and explains that Carlos stole herion and money from the drug lord who wants both. Grinko tells Jessie that Abby is not the "good girl" Jessie thought: she recruited Carlos, was responsible for another’s death and is trying to cheat the drug lord. Jessie disbelieves Grinko because Carlos told her Abby was innocent.

Jessie and Roy escape and return to the train, where they find the conductor, who works for Grinko. Roy kills him. They escape with the train because Roy, a railway enthusiast, knows how to operate it. The train slows down and Grinko and Kolzak re-board the train. When they question Jessie again about Carlos' whereabouts, holding her and Roy at gunpoint, Jessie admits she killed Carlos. Kolzak does not believe her, but at that moment, the train collides with a troop-carrying train. With the army on the way, Grinko shoots Kolzak to maintain his cover. The couple are arrested, while Grinko escapes.

In Moscow, U.S. officials visit Jessie and Roy. Through a photograph Jessie took of Grinko and his associates, the officials believe they can shut down the drug operation. They reveal Carlos' criminal history and believe Abby just got mixed up with the wrong crowd. When signing statements, Jessie does not confess she killed Carlos, although Roy may have heard her admit to this. Touring Moscow, Jessie insists on talking to Abby in hospital. It is implied that Jessie tells Abby where Carlos' body is.

The final scene shows Abby finding Carlos' body. She takes a fortune in stolen money from his jacket.



Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. At Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% rating based on reviews from 82 critics, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus states that "Traditional in form yet effective in execution, this taut thriller updates the 'danger on a train' scenario with atmospheric sense."[2] At Metacritic the film has a weighted average rating of 72% based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, saying it builds "true fear and suspense".[4] Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club gave it a B+.[5]

Box office[edit]

According to Box Office Mojo, it ultimately grossed US$2,206,405 in the United States and US$3,720,005 in other countries, for a worldwide gross of US$5,926,410.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Transsiberian". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  2. ^ "Transsiberian".
  3. ^ "Transsiberian".
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Transsiberian Movie Review & Film Summary (2008) - Roger Ebert".
  5. ^ Tobias, Scott. "Transsiberian".


External links[edit]