Andrew Grant over at Like Anna Karina’s Sweater writes about movies. And he writes about them well, with the sort of inflection that comes from pure cinema passion. A week ago he posted about Transsiberian, which he caught at the European Film Market. Transsiberian is the new work by Brad Anderson. whose early film, the witty, Bossa-Nova steeped, Next Stop Wonderland, introduced me to the marvelous Hope Davis. It was frothy and sweet, like one of those 500-Calorie things that you can get at Starbucks, but it had a visual flair and a sense of romance that seemed to foretell a future for Anderson in romantic comedy. Since then, however, Anderson has made thrillers. Less froth, less sugar, more abject terror.
The best (and least understood) of his films is the creepy Session 9, a moody tale of five men hired to strip the asbestos from a decrepit asylum who find themselves in caught in a haze of murder and fear. It’s brilliance was in Anderson’s control of information, his awareness that the less we see, the spikier the fear. Also key to the film’s brilliance was the clever use of a parallel storyline that, while never touching the main conflict served as an excellent thematic mirror to it. This is what confused a lot of people, and why I slap the “least understood” label on it. I remember explaining it to a lot of befuddled Rocket Video customers in a desperate bid to restore their trust in my recommendations. A losing battle, as it turned out.
His follow up, The Machinist, I liked less. It was moody and well-shot, and Christian Bale’s brittle, emaciated performance was a sight to behold, but here Anderson was too strict with the information, and robbed of any possibility of being able to work out the mystery on our own. When the final twist steps from the shadows in the film’s finale, we felt cheated, manipulated–not to the absurd extent we did at the end of, say, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, which had its characters engaged in a desperate pantomime in an effort to keep the wool over our eyes–but enough to banish the film into the faddish “twist-ending” pile.
Still, it was clear Anderson was capable of some great suspense and I’ve been hoping to see a new effort. Transsiberian sounds like a new iteration of Anderson as a director, a throwback to the location thrillers of decades past. I can’t wait to see it, but as of today, it still hasn’t found U.S. distribution.
Below, the trailer. And then after the jump, the advance one-sheet followed by the far inferior release one sheet.