Opens at Meridian, Fri., Aug. 22. Rated R. 111 minutes.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, this nifty thriller from director Brad Anderson (The Machinist) seemed about to bypass Seattle—where it previously played at SIFF—on its way to DVD. But after becoming a surprise hit at Manhattan's Paris Theatre, where it's been playing since mid-July, the movie has been given a new lease on life. That's good news for moviegoers, since Anderson's unapologetically pulpy tale of strangers on a train is, like the locomotive film noirs it explicitly recalls (Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin and Rudolph Maté's Union Station among them), meant to be seen on the big screen. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer star as a wide-eyed Bible Belt couple journeying from Beijing to Moscow after a church-sponsored mission to China. En route they share their train compartment with a pair of seasoned travelers—suave Spaniard Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Seattle native Abby (Kate Mara)—who will immediately strike all but the most naive of audiences as something more (or less) than meets the eye. Elsewhere, there's a cache of missing drugs and a grizzled Russian cop (Ben Kingsley, turning the scenery to sawdust) in pursuit. Anyone who has ever read a mystery novel—or seen one of the Hostel movies—can wager a fair guess at how these jigsaw pieces fit together, but Anderson and his very fine cast keep things chugging along at a breathless pace, complete with a midfilm reversal of fortune nearly as unexpected as Psycho's shower scene. All aboard!