Passengers is a film that tries to do too many things at once and, ultimately, fails at making any of them compelling or original. Ronnie Christensen’s script manages to go from high school psychology lesson to Lifetime “Movie Of The Week” to Shyamalan territory in around ninety minutes and is, sadly, determined to stick with the melodrama more than the supernatural.
Assigned to help the survivors of a recent plane crash come to terms with their emotional states, psychologist Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) tries to make sense of each remaining passenger’s wildly different account of what caused the accident and happened during the plane’s catastrophic descent. Originally thinking it was trauma that made each recollection of the crash inconsistent from the next, Claire and her patients begin to see mysterious men following them around and start to suspect that the airline is trying to cover up what really happened on the fateful flight. This first act of the film sets up a familiar premise but one that carries the atmosphere of an X-Files episode, even going as far as to have William B. Davis wandering around in a few scenes. At least that’s something interesting. Unfortunately, Christensen had other ideas in mind.
After agreeing to make house calls for Eric (Patrick Wilson), Claire tries to help him piece his life together while trying to rekindle her relationship with a sister that she hasn’t spoken to in years. In an effort to get both of their lives on the right track, Claire and Eric end up elevating their doctor-patient relationship into something more ; namely, one of the most unheated on-screen romances of all time. One creepy visit from a shady airline official (David Morse) later – someone who apparently hung around waiting for Claire to come outside all night so he could get a sleazy recap of what happened the night before – and the two begin to develop conspiracy theories with the remaining passengers who haven’t vanished into thin air since their first group therapy session.
From then on, the unremarkable nature of the script takes hold and delivers contrived plot point after contrived plot point until it reaches the final few reels, where the usage of the most predictable and overused plot twist of all time feels more like a means to the end credits than a revelatory moment for the characters. Director Rodrigo Garcia, who has been praised for his dramatic ensemble projects, manages to distill every ounce of tension and suspense out of the film, leaving us with a bland romantic thriller minus the thrills – unless you count the shriek Hathaway lets out when the wind blows a newspaper into her face as being an effective jump scare.
Sony’s 1080p transfer for Passengers is too good for a film so bland and produces some spectacular visuals during the plane crash and nighttime sequences. The image is crisp and clear for the most part, save for a few moments here and there that are soft during the uneventful middle portion of the film. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track gets high marks for the crash sequence but tends to produce muffled and unclear dialogue that can’t be heard over background noises. Oh, and whoever made the menus should be fired, as they give away the “surprise” ending and remove what little drive you might have to watch the film in the first place.
Commentary – If there was one extra on the disc I would recommend skipping, it would be this one. Featuring director Rodrigo Garcia and star Patrick Wilson, this track has a lot of rambling on it and just goes over the same information presented in the two documentaries on the disc and is about as in-depth, too. They do say some fairly interesting things here and there but not often enough to justify sitting through the snooze-fest that is this commentary.
Analysis Of The Plane Crash (16:28) – Considering that the plane footage only takes up a little over five minutes of the film’s runtime, this is a fairly extensive look at the CGI work done on Passengers. Things start off with Doug Oddy and Eric Nordby, the visual effects supervisors, talking about integrating CGI into certain scenes and what sort of techniques they used in doing so, as well as how the finished scenes compare to the storyboards. David Brisbin, the production designer, gabs a bit about location scouting for the crash site and Garcia and cinematographer Igor Jadue-Lillo discuss shooting against green screen and how they made the plane interior convincingly appear to be flying through the sky while wind furiously blew through it – pre-CGI. Truth be told, this special feature is actually more interesting than the film itself.
The Manifest And Making Of Passengers (23:14) – A typical making-of, with floating head interviews from a significant amount of the actors involved, as well as behind-the-camera talent. There isn’t as much technique discussed as I’d like; however, the actors do try to deconstruct their characters in their interview snippets and Garcia and Jadue-Lillo talk about their visual approach more extensively than in Analysis Of The Plane Crash. The screenwriter and producers are also given a chance to say their piece about the film and talent involved.
Deleted Scenes (7:17) – A collection of three deleted scenes, including a break-up scene between Eric and Claire (you do not break-up with Anne Hathaway, Anne Hathaway breaks up with you!), an extra conversation between Claire and Norman (Don Thompson) and a dream sequence.