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 as an adventurous side trip on their return home from a Christian mission in China. The gregarious Roy befriends their cabin mates, a Spanish man, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), travelling with his young Seattle-born girlfriend, Abby (Kate Mara). The reserved Jessie does not share her husband's warmth towards the globe trotting pair. In course of the journey, Carlos shows Jessie a collection of "rare" souvenir matryoshka dolls he is carrying.

When Roy misses the train in Irkutsk while sightseeing, Jessie is left alone with Carlos and Abby. Jessie gets off the train at Ilanskaya station, about 800 miles further, to wait for Roy to arrive in another train. Carlos and Abby get off with her, claiming she would not be safe alone. In a restaurant, Jessie sees dolls nearly identical to the ones that Carlos showed her. Abby is upset when she mentions this and goes off to bed. Jessie begs Carlos not to involve Abby in his suspicious activities.

The next morning Carlos comes to Jessie's room, tells her that his shower is not working and asks to use her bathroom. Jessie receives a call from the reception desk and leaves Carlos alone in her room. At the reception she later receives a telephone call confirming that Roy will rejoin her at 4 o'clock, and Carlos convinces her to accompany him on a trek into the middle of a snowy wilderness, where they come upon the ruins of an abandoned church.

Jessie, an amateur photographer, starts taking pictures of the old church. When Carlos makes advances at first she refuses but then she surrenders. The two begin kissing, but she has a change of heart and asks him to stop. He continues and becomes aggressive and chases her. She becomes terrified and beats him to death with a fence post. She waits until the body is cold and then returns to the railway station and rejoins Roy on the train.

Ilya Grinko (Ben Kingsley), an inquisitive Russian narcotics officer whom Roy previously befriended, is the new cabin mate of Roy and Jessie. Jessie finds Carlos' dolls in her own suitcase and realizes that Carlos must have hidden them when he was in her room that morning. In the course of a conversation with Grinko about his police work, Jessie realizes that Carlos was smuggling heroin in the dolls, and she unsuccessfully tries to get rid of them. She panics when Grinko becomes suspicious and confronts her. When she returns to her cabin to find Roy examining the dolls, she breaks down and explains their origins to Roy, though without telling him about Carlos' death. The two of them surrender the dolls to Grinko, who at first seems satisfied that they were not involved in the smuggling operation.

The next morning, she and Roy awake to discover that most of the train's cars are now gone along with the passengers; only Grinko and his partner Kolzak Yushenkov (Thomas Kretschmann) remain. Grinko and Kolzak 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 on the payroll of a Russian drug lord and explains that, in addition to the heroin, he wants the money that Carlos carried, which belongs to the drug lord. Grinko tells Jessie that Abby is not a "good girl" as Jessie had thought: Abby recruited Carlos, was responsible for another man's death and is trying to cheat the drug lord of his money. Jessie disbelieves Grinko because Carlos told her Abby was innocent.

Jessie and Roy manage to escape from the abandoned military bunker and return to the train, where they find the train conductor, who works for Grinko. Roy beats and kills the train's conductor. Jessie and Roy escape with the train because Roy, a railway enthusiast, knows how to operate a locomotive. The train starts to slow down and Grinko and Kolzak are able to re-board the train. When the pair question Jessie once again about Carlos' whereabouts, while holding her and Roy at gunpoint, Jessie comes clean and screams that she killed Carlos. Kolzak does not believe her, but before they can do anything else, the train has a head-on collision with a troop-carrying train. With the army on the way, Grinko shoots Kolzak to maintain his cover that he is on the right side of the law, claiming to have rescued Jessie and Roy from Kolzak. The couple are taken away by the army, 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 it will be easy to 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 never tells the officials that she killed Carlos, although Roy may have heard her admit to this when the train was about to crash. Upon touring Moscow and seeing a billboard of a girl sitting on the end of a dock (similar to a scene Abby described earlier as her dream home), Jessie insists on talking to Abby in the hospital. Although off-camera, it is implied that Jessie tells Abby where Carlos' body is.

The final scene shows a still-limping Abby finding Carlos' body in the snow by the old church. She looks at his face. Earlier, she had revealed to Jessie that she was "working" on finding money to buy back her grandfather's cottage on the lake in Vancouver, British Columbia. She takes the stolen money from his jacket and walks away.



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 2018-07-11.
  2. ^ "Transsiberian".
  3. ^ "Transsiberian".
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Transsiberian Movie Review & Film Summary (2008) - Roger Ebert".
  5. ^ Tobias, Scott. "Transsiberian".


External links[edit]