Transsiberian Blu-ray Review
Trans-Siberian is framed in a 2.35:1 ratio and is transferred to 1080P High definition using the VC-1 codec. I understand it was mainly filmed in Lithuania but the style of filming is as cold as the Siberia it depicts.
Vast expanses of snow covered lifeless plains come bounding on to the screen. The whites feel bleached and stark. This helps to set off what appear to be inky blacks as well as impressive levels of contrast. Not sure that they are as good as they could have been but the measure of contrast is against white and since there's enough of that here, it's enough to give the visual impression that all is sufficient for an above average viewing experience.
Much of the colours have been drawn out of the movie. Fleshtones feel very anaemic at times and the colour palette has been well toned down. No excessive reds or bright colours on offer here, not even for the inside of the warm train cabins. Ultimately there is a hint of overuse of blue filter but that's no real criticism though as the movie is probably made to feel cold and bleak by design.
Where the film does excel is in detail. Close up shots of faces, clothes, hats and scarves reveal tremendous levels of detail and texture. Once again helped by the bleak surroundings, especially in the outdoor scenes it helps to accentuate the detail on offer in the main area of the image. There is also a lovely veneer of grain to the picture which adds to its cinematic credentials.
Surprisingly this film was made on quite a limited budget but its transition into high definition blu-ray remains intact and suitably impressive. A highly cinematic viewing experience in your living room is assured with this disc.
Unfortunately there isn't a lossless soundtrack on this disc. I say that because unfortunately the Dolby Digital 5.1 accompaniment is simply not upto the task in many ways.
Whilst dialogue and most of the sound is directed through the main front channels it remained quite an unconvincing and underwhelming experience. There is no sense of drive, power or authority to this audio track at all. I found that I constantly had to twiddle with the volume levels, notching them increasingly upwards to neighbour annoyingly high levels in order to feel remotely satisfied. In the end I simply wasn't.
You do get the room shaking low end effects of the train rumbling along but it all comes through in a very unbalanced fashion. Having the volume cranked up so high in order to get satisfaction from the dialogue you would suddenly get out of kilter levels of LFE. It's not a well balanced soundtrack at all.
For what it's worth sound steering is not bad. The surrounds get an adequate work out when needed from the cold rustling wind, train station to the sound of the train storming on by. Sadly though it's in no part a satisfactory audio track and really lets this offering down. It maybe a budget film but this really was a false economy especially when the video had been so strong.
There is only one extra on this disc and it's presented in SD in a boxed frame.
Making of featurette - (33mins 56secs) - There may only be one extra on this disc but it's a fairly lengthy and complete one. Brad Anderson talks about the journey that inspired him to make the film. He once spent 6 days upon the Trans-Siberian express himself whilst he travelled to Russia. Not only did he learn the language but he met lots of people and had a colourful experience whilst on board. The featurette includes dispersed interviews with lead cast and crew. There is also a lot of background scene development, sizing up and shooting of some of the keys scenes. It does not feel like a documentary style experience and although the quantity is lacking the quality is not.
Trailers - Four trailers : War Inc, Sukiyaki Western Django, Priceless and Birds of America
Brad Anderson had a modest budget to make this film so whilst the creativity side of things was limited, he loosely based the story upon a real life experience of the train journey to make a thriller cast in a more conventional mould. All credit to him as he's done rather well with this film.
The build of suspense, although poor for the first half, retains your interest simply due to the quirkiness of the opening scenes. You sense that there are twists to be had further down the line and in practice they are placed with perfect timing throughout the film. This helps to keep your attention no end.
The suspense builds in simmering fashion, the intrigue is gradual and claustrophobia leads to a tautness that is in part comparative to the finest of the genre. Pretty impressive stuff ! The unravelling of events is also frighteningly realistic. I say realistic because the overwhelming feeling I was left with is that it is the sort of thing that could happen to anyone. Ok, maybe not to the extent of what happens in the movie but you can relate to how easily you could get into a compromised situation with perfect strangers. Try as you might it is sometime difficult to avoid; that's life, you meet people, it happens.
I really must give credit to this film. It comes in quite an unassuming package that would remain oblivious to most on rental/store shelves. However, those that pick it up will be richly rewarded with one hell of a thriller blessed with very good video quality. It's not all great shakes though as the audio track desperately needs re-mastering and would help if it were to be done in lossless fashion. The extras need beefing up as they are virtually non-existent.
Trans-Siberian is on paper an unremarkable movie and has no right to proclaim any greatness. The disc also does not do enough justice to warrant an out and out purchase. In reality that matters little and simply put this movie demands a viewing. If you're going to watch one thriller this year let it be this one. The end result may well have you delighted with a sense of bewilderment.
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