Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Empire Blogs
Edinburgh International Film Festival

Back to all blogs Comment Now

The Transsiberian Connection

Posted on Thursday June 26, 2008, 15:25 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
The Transsiberian Connection

Apologies for not blogging yesterday, but the pressures of real life sometimes unexpectedly, and rather rudely, intrude when you're in the middle of a film festival. And, hey, that's given me an idea for a theme for today's blog! Real life didn't enter my mind at all yesterday afternoon as I watched the frankly rather absurd Transsiberian, the latest by Brad Anderson, who did the existential thriller The Machinist (which was great) and the haunted asylum horror Session 9 (this one not so much). His latest film is more of a piece with the latter; though it's well made and insanely ambitious – it takes place on a train hurtling from Beijing to Moscow – the story problems that kick in after the intriguing first half just can't be resolved by an overcooked, violent climax.

Emily Mortimer stars as Jessie, a recovered alcoholic who's travelling with her staid, religious boyfriend Roy (Woody Harrelson, making an excellent nerd), and on the first leg of the journey they befriend a charming Spaniard, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and his girlfriend. Sparks fly between Carlos and Jessie, and when Roy goes missing, a dramatic chain of events conspires to put Jessie's life in jeopardy. Sorry if that seems a bit mysterious but to explain any more would spoil what little this film has to offer. It wants to be Hitchcockian, but the suspense is too contrived, and when Jessie comes under suspicion by a scenery-chewing Ben Kingsley (playing a Russian cop), the film teeters into farce as Jessie tries to keep her guilty secret from his prying eyes.
Later that night I saw Elite Squad, which has also come under fire for its realism, especially from Variety in a review written by the normally mild-mannered Jay Weissberg. I know Jay and respect his views, but I beg to differ with him on this. You can read his review here.

Now, Elite Squad is harsh, and it's certainly flawed, but I think Jay is responding more to the film's devil's advocate status than what's actually on the screen. Other comparisons have been made with City Of God, and even Dirty Harry, but neither of these really cover it either. Set in 1997, on the eve of a visit by the Pope to Rio De Janeiro, it finds supercop Nascimento (Wagner Moura) looking for a replacement to take over from him as the head of the hand-picked, brutal BOPE squad, a troop that patrols the favellas and slums, taking out drug dealers and criminals with single-minded and cold-blooded precision. Into Nascimento's orbit come two best friends, both idealistic recruits who join up to fight crime and wind up participating in it, coming to Nascimento's attention as two potential candidates for his job. The film works best as a study of corruption, and how it can't help but filter down to the lowest levels. It's also about hypocrisy, and the way the liberal, pot-smoking middle classes help to fund and perpetuate the cycle of violence in the slums. Director Jose Padilha went through hell to make it, and he just told me a fantastic story about the day he was accosted by gangsters who wanted a word, so to speak. One of them dropped a grenade, which bounced on the floor a few times but thankfully didn't go off because it was faulty. “Sorry about that,” said the druglord as he reinserted the pin. I bet that never happens to Richard Curtis.

Now, we can talk all day about whether Elite Squad is 'real' or not, but something that undoubtedly happened in 1974 was that tightrope walker Philippe Petit threw a steel rope from one of the Twin Towers over to the other and began a 47-minute performance, without a safety net, that astonished New York. Man On Wire arrives here from Sundance and Tribeca, so it's hardly a discovery, but even if you know the story, James Marsh's terrific film is a wonderful document of an extraordinary man and a barely believable event. The official screening is tonight and promises to be a cracker; it helps that Petit is in attendance, simply because he's just as adorable and crackers in real life as he seems to be onscreen. It will certainly help send the festival out on a high, so to speak.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 Cethan
Posted on Thursday June 26, 2008, 17:22
Session 9 is a great film! If it wasn't the the silly ending, it would be a modern Horror classic

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

The European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida
By Damon Wise

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Awards Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: First Report
By Damon Wise

Shane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color
By Damon Wise

Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look
By Damon Wise

The European Film Awards 2013
By Damon Wise

Metro Manila Charity Screenings
By Damon Wise


RECENT COMMENTS

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
"lights of both competitors alongside its traditional 24/7 series. Here we have the greatest hits of "  lalkala000
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Ha ha, buuuurn! I am going to go a step further and say Dredd was a better film."  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"You are a miserable old fart! "  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Doug64 I totally agreed with you"  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think The Raid is all that great? I realise you have t"  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Great write-up on a movie for which I am incredibly excited. Even more promisingly, this seems to be"  tysmuse
Read comment

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
"If being on a par with Terry Gilliam's 'daft' Brazil is the only criticism avowed Gilliam-disliker D"  Garth_Marenghi
Read comment

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
"I'm glad that Glazer's finally back on the big screen. Judging by the review, he"  Manfrendshensindshen
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"What's really interesting about this film is the trailer gives nothing away but give you the premise"  durelius
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"Looks majestic. Can't wait to see this particularly if it lives up to the slowly-building hype."  herbertwest1701
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Why I Love Django Unchained
5 comments

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
5 comments

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
4 comments

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
1 comments

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
1 comments

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two
1 comments

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5
1 comments

Argo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman
1 comments

Cannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup
1 comments

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
1 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (298)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Review Of The Year: 10 Best Soundtracks Of 2014
The scores and OSTs to add to your playlist

Watch: Night At The Museum's Cast Share Their Favourite Robin Williams Performance
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Ben Kingsley pay tribute to the actor

Watch: Jack O'Connell And Luke Treadaway Talk Unbroken
On POWs, panto and how to name your bomber

Review Of 2014: The 15 Best Cameos Of The Year
Our favourite one-scene movie-stealers

8 Things You Can Learn From The BFI's Star Wars Exhibition
The original crawl, a 'grotesque' villain and a very different princess

Review Of The Year: 40 Worst Posters Of 2014
One-sheets that you'd rather not have on your wall

Hobbit Q&As: Ian McKellen On Finally Saying Goodbye And Farewell To Gandalf The Grey
Read our exclusive Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies interviews

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)