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DVD Review: Passengers

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To say that Anne Hathaway has had an interesting couple of years would be an understatement. She may be on record for being one of the modern era’s most perplexing actresses, as she shows flashes of brilliance in films like Rachel Getting Married and Brokeback Mountain but then descends into utterly awful choices like 2009’s Bride Wars and 2008's suspense offering, Passengers.

Directed by Rodrigo García, Passengers is a film dedicated entirely to its twist ending. It poaches many elements from M. Night Shyamalan’s structure of surprising the audience in the final moments, but the storytelling is weak and the pace is incredibly sluggish. García’s end product winds up being something that probably should have gone straight to video as opposed to seeing a small, incredibly limited theatrical release in October of 2008.

Now released on DVD where it belongs, Passengers stars Hathaway as psychotherapist Claire Summers. We meet her as she’s dispatched to treat a group of survivors from a plane crash. It isn’t long before Claire winds up in an “interesting” relationship with one of the survivors, a flirtatious young man named Eric (Patrick Wilson). Eric is, according to Claire, pushing down his true feelings about the plane crash and really needs to open up a bit.

Meanwhile, all manner of strange events are taking place. Claire is noticing that some of her patients are disappearing and a creepy guy (David Morse) that works with the airline appears to have something to do with it. Claire also has a neighbour (Dianne Wiest) and an aloof boss (Andre Braugher) to contend with on her quest for the truth. When that truth eventually does arrive, everything else feels like a colossal, insignificant waste of time.

García is a veteran of the HBO scene, having directed episodes of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, and In Treatment. When it comes to conducting things on the big screen, however, he has a lot to learn. With García’s HBO work, he reveals warmth to the human experience. With Passengers, that warmth is discarded in favour of clichéd sentimentalism and bland characterizations.

Of course, the director is far from the only individual deserving of blame for this soulless clunker. Writer Ronnie Christensen’s screenplay is intellectually lazy, boring, and needlessly gimmicky. The entire structure of the movie serves as a sort of movie-of-the-week build-up to an inevitable twist ending. Christensen’s twist, however, undoes any progression we’ve made with the characters and renders everything instantly and utterly worthless.

Hathaway is nice to look at in the role, but she’s given so little to go on and so little to do of interest that she barely seems to put forth much effort. At least in a big cash vehicle like Get Smart she was able to deliver some of her trademark charisma. With Passengers, Hathaway blends with the dreary scenery and manages to have her most effective “scare” wrestling with a blown newspaper. Freaky stuff.

The remainder of the cast looks good on paper, too, with Morse, Wiest, and Wilson all formidable talents. Unfortunately, this humourless and meaningless plot gives them nothing to do and they all wind up waiting around for the conclusion and, presumably, the paycheque.

On a personal note, it was slightly entertaining to notice that Passengers was filmed in Vancouver. Scenes are set against my fair city’s bleak backdrop, with the cloudiness and insistent rainy weather providing as dreary a setting as this picture deserved. In the end, though, even the blank skies and UBC’s lush environs could save it from ultimate despair.

The DVD release includes a feature on the plane crash that illuminates how the creators attempted to make it among the most realistic sequences of its kind. Anyone who’s seen Passengers knows that they didn’t succeed in the least.

There are also some deleted scenes in case the movie’s 93 minutes aren’t enough and a standard “Making Of” feature along with a director and cast commentary.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • Kevin Gustafson

    That’s a shame about the movie. I can understand why Anne Hathaway the part. A paycheck of course, but she wants to show variety as an actress.