** Spoilers ahead
For the most part, Transsiberian works as a suspense/thriller and captures the uncomfortable feeling of being a foreigner in another land. The director Brad Anderson does a commendable job setting up the relationship between the couple, their struggles, and their vastly different personalities. He also sets the stage for quite a finish, but the viewer will have to decide how well this is pulled off. I loved the scenery and much of the dialogue was satisfactory throughout. A slow, definitive build up to the main conflict is sorely lacking in contemporary films, but Transsiberian captures this. The basic premise is that an American couple, Roy and Jessie are (Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer) taking a trip home from China on the Trans-Siberian Express become involved in a plot involving an investigation of drug possession and an accidental murder. When Roy and Jessie happen to meet and share a cabin with another couple (Carlos, Abby) from the West, events begin to pick up, and the intrigue begins. The seemingly well-meaning couple has other plans and, after a mix-up where Roy and Jessie become separated, it sheds a bit of light on what is going on. Later, a Russian police officer (Sir Ben Kingsley) takes over the investigation, but his true intentions are a bit shady.
While most of the film was solid, there were some aspects of the film that irked me. For one, being that Jessie (Mortimer) was the strongest character, I found it appalling and puzzling how she could not and would not tell the truth at ANY costs (which included possibly having her husband shot to death and one of the characters who she befriended, Abby, tortured). Not only that, but she has no qualms about going "out in the middle of nowhere" with a mysterious man at the same time her husband is missing. Was this just a major character flaw for her, or what was the deal? It seemed a little inconsistent with who she is. You would think that she might finally see the light, but no, it never happens. Another point that seemed a little inconsistent or baffling was when Roy and Jessie basically flee their captors but leave Abby, after being tortured and beaten and pleading for help, to the wolves. Were these the same good people who were doing missionary work in China? The last part of the film, the unraveling of events, kind of fell flat, and seemed to "sell out" a little, going Hollywood, and having the typical good guy/ bad guy struggle scenario play out. It didn't really live up to the carefully crafted suspense in the first part. Also, there were questions that were not fully explored. (i. e. Why did Roy miss his train? ). It didn't compare to the first part of the film that took time to build up suspense, and give some intrigue to the tale.
Still, Transsiberian works on many levels. The tension when Kingsley's character is questioning Jessie about the missing man really adds to the mood and confusion of the naÔve American couple. In short, this is an above-average suspense with mostly solid performances and an intriguing plot. This film does have a "feel" of Hitchcock to it at times, but it's best to leave the comparisons at the door.