Director Brad Anderson has been an unknown commodity for quite a few years now. The Connecticut native did deliver the accomplished 2004 thriller "The Machinist," but that film was best known as the one in which Christian Bale lost all that weight. His latest picture -- "Transsiberian" -- is another step in the right direction.
A tense thriller with heavy bouts of suspense, "Transsiberian" is a solid piece of work that puts a talented cast in the right position to successfully navigate through a Hitchcock-like tale. Anderson turns a routine train trip between China and Russia into one of sheer terror for two American passengers.
Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are a married couple from the United States who decide to take the Trans-Siberian Railway back to Russia after a mission trip in China. Like a lot of couples, Roy and Jessie have their share of problems, but they're hoping this trip might make things better.
Things start out wonderfully until they're paired with another couple -- Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), shady globetrotters who turn out to be drug dealers.
When a stop on the trip separates the four passengers, the suspense picks up. Jessie finds herself in a delicate situation with Carlos, and crooked Russian authorities bent on ending trafficking on the Trans-Siberian are sniffing around. Eventually, Roy and Jessie find themselves the target of a KGB agent named Grinko (Ben Kingsley), and what was supposed to be a relationship-healing trip turns into a fight for their lives.
Mortimer really stands out here among a talented cast. Her ability to keep the uncomfortable undertone of the film alive is undeniable. Additionally, the evil Kingsley and wholesome Harrelson are strong in supporting roles.
It's Anderson, though, who sets forth a present-day gem of a thriller. With its detail-oriented cinematography, captivating story and sense of suspense, "Transsiberian" is a feature that the original master of suspense -- Alfred Hitchcock -- would be proud of.
• The Manor Theater, Squirrel HillAdditional Information:
Rated R for some violence, including torture and language
(out of four)