Monday 27 April 2015

Movie Review: Passengers (2008)

A story of survivors of an airplane crash struggling to make sense of the tragedy, Passengers suffers through a clumsy opening but steadies itself for a better than expected resolution.

A plane crashes onto a beach, and there are just a handful of survivors. Psychotherapist Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) is assigned by her boss Perry (Andre Braugher) to help the survivors deal with the trauma in group sessions, and individually if needed. Hunky survivor Eric (Patrick Wilson) insists that Claire meet him alone; she agrees, especially once he appears to exhibit some post-traumatic extrasensory abilities. Eric advises Claire to reach out and repair the relationship with her estranged sister. Meanwhile, he suffers bouts of agitation upon hearing a dog barking.

The stories recounted by the survivors seem to contradict the official explanation of the crash provided by airline executive Arkin (David Morse). Claire begins to suspect that there may be a cover-up underway, and senses that she is being watched by one or more creepy individuals. Meanwhile, Caire's dotty next-door neighbour Toni (Dianne Wiest) appears to take a greater interest in Claire's affairs. Gradually Claire and Eric fall in love and they start a relationship. Meanwhile, attendance at the group sessions diminishes, as the increasingly upset survivors appear to give up on the therapy, increasing Claire's frustration.

Directed by Colombia's Rodrigo GarcĂ­a and filmed mostly in and around Vancouver, not much more can be said about Passengers without revealing its true intentions. Sufficient to say that while the opening half is a slow-baking romance unfolding against the background of some amateur survivor therapy mixed in with hints of corporate chicanery, it's all a careful set-up for where the film goes in its second half, which is much better.

The first 45 minutes are a study of the fragmented search for the truth and change that follow a tragedy. The film unfolds slowly and rather awkwardly, and the more Claire interacts with the survivors the more she realizes that there may be more to the story of the crash than first meets the eye. The recollections of the various passengers don't mesh with each other, much less with the official version. The number of survivors seeking Claire's help keeps on dwindling, and there are mysterious men and women who always seem to be hovering whenever Claire meets with the survivors. Then she finds herself affected by the tragedy in unforeseen ways. Her behaviour changes, first in reaching out to her sister and then in crossing all professional boundaries to get romantically involved with Eric.

Once it becomes apparent where the film is heading, it picks up the pace and becomes much more enjoyable. Garcia finds better success once he starts steering Claire's perspective towards not just what she is being told but also what is possible, and the film stitches itself to provide a satisfying conclusion. Anne Hathaway does a fine job mixing eagerness to please with sweet naiveté and building anxiety as Claire realizes that her assignment may not be as simple as she thought.

Passengers is worth the journey. Despite a rather ponderous take-off and plenty of turbulence along the way, the landing is quite uplifting.

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1 comment:

  1. That feeling when you realize you need to go see Moonlight but you already have a commitment to see Moana this afternoon. :-/

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