His namesakes Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson made immediate genius debut splashes on the movie scene, but Brad Anderson, 43, has taken a slower, more indirect route, one more like the long, steady careers of John Ford and Howard Hawks. (By the way, none of these Andersons are related, and I am not related to any of them.) Brad Anderson has turned into a solid, dependable genre director, highly skilled and capable of making any kind of movie. Unlike most filmmakers today, his films are based on ideas, stories and characters rather than marketing concepts, and so they tend to hold up well past their sell-by date. So far they include the romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland (1998), the sci-fi romance Happy Accidents (2000), one of the decade's best horror films, Session 9 (2001) and the haunting The Machinist (2004).

Opening July 18, Anderson's new film Transsiberian is more like a classic thriller in the Hitchcock vein, even taking place on a train as many of Hitch's films did. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer star as American couple Roy and Jessie, on their way back from China and taking the famous train. Ben Kingsley also stars as a Russian narcotics detective. Roy and Jessie meet a younger, traveling couple, Abby (Kate Mara) and Carlos (Eduardo Noriega), and find themselves entangled in a web of drugs and murder. Normally, the man is the hero in this type of story, but this time it's Jessie, a reformed "bad girl" making a go of it in her marriage with the simple, happy Roy (a train nut). Cinematical recently enjoyed a brief phone conversation with Mr. Anderson, and that's where we began: