Passengers (2008, not to be confused with 2016 Passengers) is another example of a burgeoning genre: movies with a promising theme that should have been utterly fascinating and operated at multiple levels, but ultimately fail because in the final instance they slip into Hollywood formulaic mode and miss the opportunity to create something original and different, which is a long-winded way of saying its a film with much to enjoy but which ultimately fails to deliver.
That is, you will see the twist coming and feel slightly cheated because, like The Sixth Sense, the hero is not what you expect – but TSS at least explored the scenario and its possibilities fully before revealing the truth.
So here’s how it should have gone: having established the plane crash and the characters of beautiful white therapist Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) and dishy rich white entrepreneur Eric Clarke (Patrick Wilson), plus eerie airline guy, cutesy neighbour and token black guy (Andre Braugher), plus the apparent disappearance of passengers from a group therapy session, director Rodrigo Garcia ought to have spent more time exploring the psychology of survivors, how each could remember different aspects of the trauma, the nature of their fears and hallucinations, paranoia and much more.
Oh, and forget the twist. It adds nothing but cheapens the action. You can see it coming through the confusion over whether Clarke is or is not Summers’s patient and just where the shadowy figure Arkin fits into it. You know that is relevant because the script never tidies up the ambiguity and thereby telegraphs what is to follow. There would have been many better ways to develop the drama than a cheap twist ploy.
As it is, Garcia had a 90-minute formula to meet, so much of the promise goes in a bid to cram the story in. Thus it seems facile that the passengers vanish, some remember an explosion while the plane was air bound, the moody and creepy airline guy who keeps hanging around wherever Claire happens to be (David Morse) turns out to be a cardboard cutout cliche and Dianne Wiest‘s neighbour has a perfunctory role that sadly neglects her talent.
Critical reaction? Bad enough to warrant a very limited theatrical release then consignment to the DVD and streaming market. From Wikipedia:
The film received generally negative critical reviews. Rotten Tomatoes aggregate reviews gave the film 20% rating based on 30 reviews. By comparison, Metacritic score for the film was 40 out of 100 based on 8 reviews.
That just about sums it up, so I suggest we stop there. Goodnight!