At first glance, Transsiberian looks like the typical story of innocents abroad. Jessie (Emily Mortimer) and her husband, Roy (Woody Harrelson), stumble into grave danger as they travel from Beijing to Moscow via train. Jessie is reckless, Roy is naive, and both make several foolish decisions, but interestingly, the culture clash between entitled Americans and world-weary Russians is merely a backdrop to the truly compelling subject: Jessie and Roy’s troubled marriage and, even more specifically, Jessie’s tortured sense of self.
The rest of the movie—with the drugs, false identities, and mobsters—is all pretty generic, but Jessie is a fascinating character, and Mortimer plays her beautifully. She’s not always likable, certainly not that admirable, but she’s wholly real and engagingly human, and she makes the movie worth seeing.