By Juan Calvillo
“Siberia” is a movie that emulates the diamonds that engross its central characters throughout the film, hard, beautiful, and unique. It is similar in tone to old noir pictures where every moment on screen builds to a fever pitch that can only go one way for its main characters.
The main characters in “Siberia” are played by Keanu Reeves and Ana Ularu. Reeves plays the lead role of Lucas Hill. Hill is a diamond merchant completing a job that is not entirely by the book with a group of Russians. Ularu plays Katya a young woman who Reeves’ Hill meets during a trip to the aforementioned Siberia of the movies title.
Reeves plays Hill as stoic but well mannered enough to make it plausible to the audience that his charm can help him in his chosen profession. And although the character is for all intents a seemingly good person, the story does not shy from showing that even good people have weaknesses. The best analogy for this is a scene early in the film where Hill’s character succumbs to seeing Katya at her place of work despite having just spoken to his wife.
Ularu breathes life into the character of Katya by giving her a strong will but also tempering it with moments that show the cracks right beneath the surface of Katya’s personality. Although it may follow the troupe that Russian women are strong and straight forward as far as characterization, Ularu lets the subtle quirk of a lip or eye twitch speak volumes of what the character is thinking.
“Siberia” provides a unique tale that presents characters that see that change is possible but fail to reach the point where they can make changes they see a reality. Reeves character catches a glimpse of what life could be, but continues down the path he had laid out at the beginning of the film. And although circumstances cause him to hope for something more, it becomes apparent that it may be too late for things to change.
This leads to some of the harder parts of “Siberia”. The harshness of the situations that Reeves and Ularu’s characters get into are in no small part due to their respective characters inability to see the flaws in each other and try to change for a better outcome. The movie does a good job of showing that Hill is consumed with the idea of completing his transaction no matter the cost. While Katya sees Hill less for what he is and slightly more for what he might become. A scene further in the movie has Katya relay a story about prisoners in a gulag. It’s a interesting comparison not only to Hill’s work life but also to the life he has waiting for him at home.
The greatest part of “Siberia” is the locations and background of the movie. A lot of the initial scouting was done in Canada and although it may not all be Russia proper, the desolation and sheer feeling of cold permeates every frame of the movie. The forests and landscapes are a wonder to behold. Most importantly the visceral feeling of freezing cold temperatures is palpable. These cold moments are in stark contrast with the intimate moments between the characters of Hill and Katya. Almost all of those moments create a sense of warmth and even the colors in the scenes reflect this.
“Siberia” is a movie that very much relies on complexity of relationships and the speed bumps that occur within them to keep it afloat. And even though the movies story is about a diamond deal going very sour, it actually becomes a reflective piece of two characters. This causes the scenes where the actions the characters take cause more strife and pain than the intimidating Russians could ever cause. Thus regulating them to nothing more than stand ins for Hill’s unnerving focus on his deal, and the problems it causes with him and Katya.
Despite the rather humdrum antagonists, “Siberia” is a truly beautiful movie to watch and a intriguing story to watch unfold in all of its very human triumphs and missteps.
“Siberia” is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, some violence and drug use.