Passengers (2008) is yet another concept film that relies on an erroneous surprise ending to shore up support for transparent characters who fail at nearly every level to be interesting or relatable.  The plot is straight forward enough; an inexperienced grief counselor fumbles for the right words to help a group of lackadaisical plane-crash survivors as they struggle to return to normal lives.  The problem here is a pervasive sense that neither the ordinary world nor the circumstances of the crash itself is all that interesting, let alone sustainable.  We’ve seen this story before and whereas a sharp script with decisive direction might have elevated the movie beyond the sum of its parts, neither element is in abundance here.  Many of the supporting roles are filled by notable character actors from film and television but they spend weighty scenes locked in emotional limbo and plot point servitude.  David Morse (The Slaughter Rule, The Hurt Locker) and Andre Braugher (Homicide: “Life on the Street”, Hack) have small, nearly indistinguishable bit roles, along with Dianne West (Lost Boys, In Treatment).  Everyone seems to be concealing a secret that isn’t fully appreciated until the ‘ah-ha’ moment reveals in no uncertain terms that what you’ve been watching was a sham and the characters you’ve been reluctant to connect with were never really there in the first place.  Are you kidding? Sadly, no.

Other films that have more successfully tackled the subject of post traumatic plane-crash scenarios are Peter Weir’s Fearless (1995) with Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez and Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away (2000) with Tom Hanks; though the latter deals more with survival ala Frank Marshall’s Alive (1993) James Wong’s Final Destination (2000) and even Lee Tamahori’s The Edge (1997).

Occasionally interesting moments are fruitless and exploitative.  Anne Hathaway as the eager grief counselor and Patrick Wilson as the plane crash survivor turned love interest, are thrown together haphazardly for the purpose of plot with scant attention rightfully placed on the one element that could have kept the film from coming undone – namely living characters.  We can no more feel for them than we do the mysterious people in the story who are always just off frame, gazing blankly like zombies without all the makeup, telling us something we have to painfully wait for until the end.  As the story unravels in a sleepy, movie of the week sort of plodding we begin to lose interest and realize the lack luster script and mediocrity isn’t going to improve.  This film accomplishes the awful task of showing us in effect how not to tell a story that requires emotional evidence as to the existence of fully realized, three-dimensional characters who actually survive after the credits roll.

Where Passengers fully comes apart is with director Rodrigo Garcia who seems as inexperienced and lost as the characters of the story, half-stepping through a haze of doubt and indefinable woe much the way crash survivor Eric (Patrick Wilson) slides from one text-book stage of grief to another.  Whereas other films are subtle and present, Passengers is painfully absent and ultimately unsatisfying.  Perhaps the most troubling of all is the realization that the actors put their trust in Garcia and the production only to realize too little too late, that no one was flying the plane and slamming into a craggy beach is not only inevitable but in some way a welcome end to an otherwise unrequited existence.

About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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10 Responses to Passengers

  1. bleuravyn says:

    I would love to leave a comment about this film but after about 20 minutes I left the room to go do something else and forgot to come back. I really couldn’t make a connection to to the characters either and didn’t wish to start the movie again to see if it got any better.. and it sounds like it didn’t. Thanks for sharing a good write-up of it though! I don’t feel bad for not finishing the movie. 🙂

    • rorydean says:

      That about sums it up! These days I’m much more inclined to ‘leave the room’ or change to another movie, or stop watching altogether as who really wants to sit through yet another bad movie? I think the idea that ‘they’ know what they are doing, that ‘they’ are consciously following a believable if not interesting story line is often just not the case. It is amazing to me that filmmakers continue to detour from proven story telling techniques in the hope of being different and/or interesting or a desperate attempt to stand out from the crowd when all they really need to do is concentrate on snappy, interesting dialog from three-dimensional characters performing truthfully through imagery circumstances. Geez!

  2. eurybe08 says:

    i watched this movie and it confused me.

    • rorydean says:

      Yes, Passengers was a strange movie in that the ending was so poorly written. There were moments interspersed through out the film that contained interesting if not believable emotional exchanges between the two main characters but simply not enough to sustain the entire story. Thanks for dropping by and if you like my reviews don’t forget to sign up to receive future posts! cheers->

  3. Rodney says:

    Hmm, sounds like I might have to simply skip it when it’s released here in Australia.

    • rorydean says:

      Yes, do. I don’t often tell ‘film folks’ to miss films because, well, that’s what we do – this film thing. But Passengers is so insulting to the senses as to demand one throw insults of “what” “you got to be kidding” and my favorite, “you stink” at the screen while it runs on and on, and on.

  4. Excellent piece of writing, l quite agree with your submission. I will subscribe to your rss to keep up.

    • rorydean says:

      Greetings wayward traveler! Thanks for the compliments and do, please subscribe and return often! I’m working on a new batch of reviews and some editorials, specifically non-linear storytelling via Pulp Fiction, Go and Citizen Kane — plus roundabout pieces on the length of movie trailers these days and the influx of movie portals like Fandango, Moviefone, and even Amazon populating social media sites for subscribers, etc. Stay tuned!

  5. 乳膠床墊 says:

    Undoubtedly, one of the best article l have come across on this precious topic. I quite agree with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your coming updates.

    • rorydean says:

      Hi Roxanne..thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts on the film Passengers. I appreciate your compliment and hope you’ll decide to subscribe to my blog or return here frequently for updates or just take a look around — I’m working towards 100 reviews by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

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