Currently there are a lot of ways to catch a flick besides going out to the theater. In the case of the suspense thriller ‘Passengers’ I initially caught part of it while exploring the video on demand movie section of my cable access. What initially induced me to pause on that particular channel was the unusually juxtaposition of the film’s stars. The female lead was played by Anne Hathaway and I have been a fan of hers for much of her career. I enjoy watch a talented young actor as they expand their skill set and could see that this movie was offering her just that opportunity. Opposite her was Patrick Wilson. I enjoyed his performances in ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Hard Candy’ I was anxious to see him in this type of movie. I realized I had a copy of the movie on DVD that came in while I was in the hospital after a stroke so I went through my pending review box to locate it and write my assessment here. I also noticed that this film tended towards negative critical response. I note that merely as a point of interest preferring to make up my own mind about how well a film worked. In this case I believe it is the expectation of greatness where the film makers set out to produce a solid piece of entertainment. Sure, it is extremely important to the future of cinema for film makers to aspire to greatness but it is also acceptable to set out to create a well crafted film that will entertain the audience. There are missteps in this movie, mostly in the technical side, but the film does succeed in presenting a reasonably well crafted, taut suspense movie; an achievement that should not be belittled. This film is engaging, able to capture and hold the imagination of the audience.
Behind the screenplay was Ronnie Christensen. One of her previous works was as a contributing author for the made for television disaster flick, ‘10.5’.there is a significant amount of potential here that requires the right project to mature. The script for ‘Passengers’ has an excellent premise as starts off well enough but is ultimately too predictable especially for a film that is intended to produce thrills and suspense. The story opens with the tragic crash of a commercial airliner. Eric (Patrick Wilson), one of the survivors, wanders along a beach noting a large bonfire. Cut to a darkened bedroom where the phone awakens grief counselor Dr. Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) who is called to the scene by her mentor Perry (Andre Braugher). He renews what seems to be an old issue that Claire is unable to push herself out of her comfort zone. He wants her to take on all the survivors as a group. She finally agrees and begins her sessions with the group. Eric refuses to be seen as a patient or join the group in favor of developing a personal relationship with Claire. She is reticent but is intrigued by his knowledge of details of her life that he could not possible know. Things begin to take a strange twist when an airline official, Arkin (David Morse), becomes overly concerned with what the survivors recall about the crash. There is a more than usual disagreement over the details of what happened. One of the things that Eric knew about Claire was that she has an estranged sister. Eric encourages Claire to attempt reconciliation. It begins to seem that Arkin and a mysterious other man are following Claire and her patients. This annoyance escalates into a threat as members of the support group begin to disappear. As if this wasn’t enough for Claire to worry about she is getting intimate with Eric you is unusually upbeat for someone that just came through s plane crash.
There are a few potential solutions that will file past your mind ranging from a cover-up conspiracy to one of several potential supernatural reasons.
Although the story is extremely, perhaps overly familiar, it does maintain a reasonably strong narrative. The pacing is admittedly slower than many watching might be used to but for older members of the audience the leisurely pacing is reminiscent of reading an old paperback suspense novel on a lazy summer’s afternoon. The plot is built one layer at a time constructing multiple, plausible scenarios in your mind. Even though the predictability of the proceedings quickly makes the correct outcome stand out more than it should, it is the journey much more than the destination that matters in the enjoyment of this movie. The acting carries the flick extremely well with excellent performances by both leads. The underlying chemistry between them is sufficient to create a believable backdrop for a fundamentally unrealistic and unethical affair. Hathaway certainly has moved up from the perky princess roles that established her public appeal. She weaves a textured presentation of Claire that is very enjoyable to see. Wilson has taken on many intense roles bringing that acumen to bear here. He plays Eric with enough light overtones that when juxtaposed with the inherent darkness of the character makes for an interesting character study. If you are able to relax your more critical modes of thought and just get into the story you just might be surprised as to how nicely put together this film turns out to be.