"Transsiberian" is the quintessence of what critic Judith Crist affectionately refers to as a movie-movie: a picture that breathes entertainment through every celluloid sprocket hole while seeming, without affect or pomposity, to encapsulate the entirety of film history.
A queasy-making train thriller directed with vibrant visual panache by Brad Anderson, "Transsiberian" stars Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer as Roy and Jessie, a married couple who regrettably opt for the picturesque route back home after two weeks of Christian fellowship work in China.
Their Beijing-to-Moscow excursion train turns up a hotbed of ill omens, from a fish-eyed European passenger who warns them of torture-happy Russian police to a testy conductor who suffers a meltdown at the sound of klutzy Berlitz Russian. The fulfillment of these bad premonitions arrives in the form of a seductive Spanish traveler named Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and his owl-eyed American girlfriend, Abby (Kate Mara), who take up occupancy in Roy and Jessie's stateroom.
The new roommates are shrouded in question marks: What have they been doing on the road for the last two years and why is Carlos being such a twit about that knapsack of Russian dolls? As the couples bond and share confidences, Jessie's own clouded past is thrown into relief. When a series of events throw her into harm's way with the roving Carlos, Jessie's good-girl facade crumbles away to reveal a coiled tiger lurking beneath.