Nate (Jim Caviezel) is an ex-con who served eighteen months in prison for real estate fraud. In an attempt to reconcile with his wife and two sons, he drives them from Texas to Louisiana, where the plan was to have a camping trip in a remote area. The car ride is strained, to say the least. The worst offender is the oldest son, Shane (Sterling Knight), who has headphones permanently lodged in his ears and holds a grudge as only an angry teenager can. Little do any of them know that four robbers ransacked an armored truck the night before and got away with $4 million in cash; knowing that they would immediately be spotted by a police roadblock, they stashed the money in a sleeping back on top of Nate’s SUV, fully intending to get it back once everyone got through the blockade.
Transit is a straightforward yet engrossing crime thriller, one that speaks the language of suspense so fluently that we willingly overlook some glaringly implausible technicalities. Although it relies a little too much on stylized action violence, especially during the final confrontation in a swamp shack, they are at the very least entertaining to watch. But to be perfectly honest, what I responded to more was the fact that Nate gets exactly what he wants, albeit in a much different way than he had planned. This traumatic experience unites the family in a way that a camping trip just wouldn’t have been able to do. Had the trip not been interrupted, had they made it to their destination and set up camp, the healing process would have been much slower, if not altogether stalled. Essentially, they’re brought back together through their mutual will to survive.
Adding considerable intrigue is that fact that, although we know him to be innocent, Nate’s wife, Robyn (Elisabeth Rohm), initially believes that he was somehow involved in stealing the money, and that he knows the people who are chasing them. When Robyn angrily leaves Nate on the side of the road with the bag full of cash, he tries to gain the upper hand by wading into the swamp and hiding the bag in a hollow tree. He’s soon found by the real criminals, as are Robyn and her children. The game becomes much more dangerous when Nate goes back to retrieve the bag, only to discover that it’s missing. Who could have taken it? Perhaps it was a man riding a motorboat, who casually passed not long after Nate first entered the swamp. But how could this man have seen anything that was happening, given the thick foliage? The film doesn’t attempt to answer this question, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
As the robbers attempt to extract information from Nate and his family, they engage in their own internal power struggle. One of them, Losada (Harold Perrineau), believes the ring leader, Marek (James Frain), should not be the one in charge. In fact, he believes that Marek’s girlfriend, Arielle (Diora Baird), has done nothing but slow them down. For Marek, this is clearly not about money so much as it is about power; at one point, he tells Arielle that he won’t lose to this man, which is to say that he will not let some random husband and father outsmart him. Even the getaway driver, the exasperated Evers (Ryan Donowho), is clearly afraid of Marek, at one point telling Nate to watch his back. Nate cleverly uses the tension between Losada and Marek to his advantage, although it only works just long enough to let him and his family escape.
There will inevitably be a violent, frenetic final confrontation. I can’t say that I was surprised by anything that happened. After all, that’s sort of how movies like this tend to be structured. Nevertheless, I did appreciate the technical aspects, namely the performances, the editing, the lighting, the choreography, and the tension. I also appreciated the fact that, although this film has its fair share of violence, it never once devolves into a sadistic bloodbath. This is true even when Losada chops off one of Nate’s fingers on the side of the road. I won’t say which finger he lost; I will say that it factors into the final shot of the film, one that seems threatening but is in fact the start – or, rather, the restart – of something good.
This movie is by no means groundbreaking in story or execution. It is, however, a competently made thriller that kept me involved from the first scene to the last. It has good casting, a decent screenplay, and plenty of suspense. It also has what I believe to be a compelling examination of a broken family on the road to healing. Sometimes it takes a lot more than a vacation to close wounds; it takes being thrust into an extraordinary situation and working towards getting out of it. It could even be argued that it’s the best way to determine how deep someone’s love truly runs. One could easily dissect the premise to find all the ways in which it couldn’t actually happen, but for goodness sake, that’s what suspension of disbelief is for. If you grant its assumptions, Transit will provide you with solid entertainment.