Transsiberian (2008)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 30-Jun-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Making Of-(33.58)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.37)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 106:25 (Case: 111)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brad Anderson

Madman Entertainment
Starring Woody Harrelson
Emily Mortimer
Ben Kingsley
Kate Mara
Eduardo Noriega
Thomas Kretschmann
Etienne Chicot
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Alfonso Vilallonga

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Dark as an Arctic winter and as relentless as the Siberian tundra; Brad Anderson's Transsiberian is a chilly thriller set on one of the great railway journeys of the world. Many will either love or hate Anderson based on the experience of his 2004 mind-messing effort The Machinist, which saw Christian Bale almost starve himself to nothingness. Place the shady emotional core of that film onto a long train journey through bleak, inhospitable Russia and you have a good idea what to expect with Transsiberian.

In Vladivostock Inpector Grinko (Ben Kingsley doing his best Rah-shin accent) is examining the scene of a nasty crime. A seaman is suffering a major headache courtesy of a large knife sticking out of his head like a pony-tail. Grinko knows how to read the scene. A drug deal has gone wrong. All that's missing is the drugs ... and the money. Grinko pockets a mobile phone as he leaves the scene?!

Meanwhile married couple Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are returning from missionary work in China. Jessie agrees to indulge Roy's boyish fascination with trains by taking the week-long trip from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Express. Onboard they meet the suave but suspicious Spaniard Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and his young girlfriend Abby (Kate Mara). They are returning west from a teaching assignment in Japan but they don't really look like teachers.

They couples share a sleeping compartment and become friends. The open and naive Roy can't help but bemoan the fact that Jessie still has one demon - her smoking. Jessie (mis)quotes Tennessee Williams: " Kill all my demons and my angels might die too". For Jessie the quote has some significance for she has enough demons to keep the boys of Supernatural busy for years! Confiding in Abby, she lets slip that she is a reformed alcoholic who spent time in prison. She met Roy when, blind drunk, she collided with his car and fell in love with him when he visited her in hospital. She has resisted his pleas to have a child perhaps because of the fear that she might again fall from grace.

When Roy steps out to look at a train graveyard and doesn't return Jessie is left with the teachers for the journey to the next stop, all the while not knowing whether Roy is alright. Adrift from Roy, and with Carlos stoking her bad girl embers, Jessie steps into the darkness and the film launches into a full blown thriller with dangers lurking at every bend in the track.

The appearance of Grinko and his scary associate, apparently on the lookout for drug dealers, raises the tension. What was with those Russian dolls Carlos showed to Jessie? Why did they turn up in Jessie's bag? Is Grinko all he seems?

Transsiberian has been described as neo-noir and that mantle fits it fairly closely. The characters all have their flaws and hidden secrets and the tension reaches fever pitch as the story races to a nail-biting close. Critics were pretty nice to the film but, for reasons that are not too clear, it never made much of an impression at the US box office and has had only limited exposure world wide. It didn't get a cinematic release here. That is a major disappointment as there is no doubting the quality of the film. Perhaps the fact that the characters are dark and even the good people do bad things (like A Simple Plan)puts it into the category of "unlikeable" films. The Machinist certainly belongs in that group.

Woody Harrelson puts in a great performance as the dependable but unexciting Roy. Emily Mortimer, fantastic in Lars and the Real Girl, is excellent as the young woman on the brink of a precipice and Ben Kingsley is his usual quality self as the dangerous Russian. Brad Anderson has co-written a script that has drawn some criticism. Some found themselves screaming at their TV sets over plot points. So did I but, ultimately, that's what gives the film its charm and individuality. The actions of the leads do make perfect sense when viewed in hindsight.

Transsiberian will entrance anyone who likes their thrillers slow-burning with questions raised and frustratingly not answered at every turn. There are twists aplenty and no-one is exactly who they seem. A great Friday night watch with a few violent scenes thrown in.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


 Transsiberian was shot on 35mm film using anamorphic lenses. It was projected at an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

The DVD case states that this is a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Fortunately, that isn't correct. The film, anamorphically enhanced, is transferred at its original aspect ratio.

The film receives a sharp, quality transfer. Anderson has crafted a film that has beautiful scenic clear moments that are lovingly rendered on the DVD. Alongside this clarity are his favoured filtered lens work which creates a variety of tones and moods. The colours are strong and stable. Flesh tones are accurate right down to the pale cold faces and red noses!

The transfer is without obvious flaws. There is no compression on show and the print is free of blemishes.

There are burnt in subtitles for the Russian speaking scenes and otherwise there are subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sound for Transsiberian is English Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kb/s.

The audio track is engaging and immediate without being exceptional. There isn't really a lot of surround work throughout the movie. The dialogue is clearly rendered and easy to understand although Carlos has a strong Spanish accent and can be a little hard to follow on some quiet scenes. I had to replay a couple of key scenes with subtitles to catch every little bit of dialogue.

The actors appear to be in audio sync.

The music for the film is by Alfonso Vilallonga. It is fairly subtle throughout only ramping up for the action sequences.

The sub-woofer gets some work as the train clanks along the line though one of the big explosive sequences in the film was a little quiet.

Still, nothing wrong with this sound .

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are two extras on the DVD.

Theatrical Trailer

The trailer gives a pretty good account of the twisted story to come.

Making of Featurette

Although this has all the elements of a studio puff piece - actors saying how much they "loved each other" and how this was the "best script they had ever read" the extended runtime means that the show can take you deeper. Director Anderson talks about his own journey on the Trans-Siberian that inspired him, along with the desire to make a good train thriller. The actors chime in and describe their motivations and we get a glimpse into the production process.

Not essential viewing but good fun nonetheless.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Transsiberian has been released in Region 1 and Region A Blu-ray. The former has no extras and the latter has the same extra featured on the Region 4 release. Buy our Region unless you want the extra quality of Blu-ray. Reliable information suggests that the Blu-ray is not region locked.


    Transsiberian is a tense, psychological thriller which makes good use of its frigid locales to set up a intriguing story of death and duplicity.

The transfer for the film is very good and the soundtrack is quite acceptable.

The extras are reasonably substantial for a film that didn't even get a wide cinema release here.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE