"Passengers" is quite annoying in spots, particularly the predictability of the film's central twist, but it does redeem itself with a heartfelt, tear-jerking finale.
Passengers (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: Rodrigo Garcνa
Writers: Ronnie Christensen (written by)
Features: * Commentary with Director Rodrigo Garcia and Actor Patrick Wilson * Featurette: In the Night Sky (23 minutes, HD) * Featurette: Anatomy of a Plane Crash (16 minutes, HD) * Deleted Scenes (SD) * Previews (HD) * BD-Live
Anne Hathaway ... Claire Summers
Patrick Wilson ... Eric
Andre Braugher ... Perry
Dianne Wiest ... Toni
David Morse ... Arkin
William B. Davis ... Jack
Ryan Robbins ... Dean
Clea DuVall ... Shannon
Don Thompson ... Norman
Andrew Wheeler ... Blonde Man
Chelah Horsdal ... Janice
Before I really get into the meat of this review, I'd like to vent a little about studios, in this case, Sony. In 2007, Sony spent nearly $20 million on director Richard Kelly's sci-fi cult film, "Southland Tales," which starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Mandy Moore and Seann William Scott among many, many others. Instead of giving the film a proper release, the film was given a limited 100-screen release and basically got shot straight to video. I mean, who on Earth would want to see a star-studded, sci-fi vehicle from the guy who made the cult classic (and bestselling DVD) "Donnie Darko," right?
I just don't understand this skirting of quirky genre fare. I understand that sometimes it's hard to advertise something weird, but look at this year's most recent genre hits like Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" or Liam Neeson's "Taken." It doesn't take much advertising for these niche films to find their market. Genre fans love it when modest or big budget genre fare comes their way, even the mediocre ones.
Well, it seems Sony has done it again, this time with director Rodrigo Garcia's semi-sci-fi ghostly thriller, "Passengers," a film packed with enough star power (Anne Hathaway, coming off an Oscar nod and Patrick Wilson, coming off the successful genre film, "Lakeview Terrace") to easily earn it its money back in two or three weekends at theaters.
The film starts out a little like J. J. Abrams' "Lost." A plane crashes and the survivors seem flustered and confused as though something went wrong besides the typical human error of a plane crash. Moments later, therapist Claire Summers (Hathaway) arrives on scene to counsel the survivors. What's odd, though, is that each survivor seems to have had a different experience with the crash. Some claim the crash was instantaneous, others think there was an explosion, while others still seem to think there was a silencing calm before the crash.
Even weirder, some of the survivors are turning up missing, and the airline seems more than a little interested in Claire's pursuit of this "explosion" theory. Meanwhile, Claire is finding herself falling for one of her patients, Eric (Wilson), who seems oddly disconnected and content with the horror of the crash.
Soon, things start to unwind, with characters and events that don't quite make any sense. Is this a case of mass hysteria? Are Claire's patients being murdered? Are some of them ghosts? Is the airline after them or Claire?
Unfortunately, even at 93 minutes, "Passengers" feels way too long, with a story built on a twist we've seen a dozen times over in the past 10 years or so. The story lacks any real mounting tension and doesn't start moving until the final 10 or 15 minutes. Before this, the film is overloaded with copious character building romance sequences between Eric and Claire. While their relationship does ultimately have a heartfelt and emotionally moving payoff, the lead up to that payoff is nothing more than ordinary.
Claire meanders around the mystery that is presented right in front of her. Instead of diving head first into the haunting conspiracy theory about the airline, Claire does a little investigating, then some laundry, then she has dinner with Eric. Then, the next day, she does a little more investigating.
While this helps build character, and show off the film's surprisingly fine performances, it does little to help the audience stay interested in the real story. Sure, Eric and Claire's relationship is interesting, but the sci-fi-like mystery behind this plane crash is far more compelling, even scary.
But, like I said, at least the film gives genre fans a few solid, even noteworthy performances along the way to help give the mundane moments some spark. Hathaway is great here, so is Patrick Wilson. The supporting players are packed tight with brilliant character actors like David Morse, Clea Duvall, Dianne Wiest and Andre Braugher, none of which fail to deliver with their brief roles.
"Passengers" is quite annoying in spots, particularly the predictability of the film's central twist, but it does redeem itself with a heartfelt, tear-jerking finale and a few solid performances that'll more than likely please most genre fans. It's a shame this $25 million picture didn't get a decent release. It's not a great film, that much is certain, but it does have its moments, and those moments are well worth seeing.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B
Film Value: C+
"Passengers" is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc.
Audio choices are English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with English, Spanish and French subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired.
This isn't much of a special edition, but fans do a few noteworthy extras.
Commentary with Director Rodrigo Garcia and Actor Patrick Wilson
Featurette: In the Night Sky (23 minutes, HD)
Featurette: Anatomy of a Plane Crash (16 minutes, HD)
Deleted Scenes (SD)
The film is presented in a blue "Elite" case featuring the film's original theatrical artwork.
"Passengers" is pretty mundane, but the film's performances elevate the material well beyond its tiresome script. The Blu-ray is pretty decent with a pristine A/V presentation and a few decent special features.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth a rental.
On BD and DVD: May 12, 2009.
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----R. L. Shaffer