Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Passengers (2008)


The strangest manifestation of post traumatic stress I’ve ever seen depicted on film is the victim, almost like an addiction confronting death which is the very thing that traumatized them.I saw that in Fearless in Jeff Bridges. Among other self inflicted brushes with death, he ate strawberries, a fruit which he had history of near fatal allergic reactions.

So when watching the Passengers the word rehash came to mind as the movie also dealt with plane crashes. There was a scene reminiscent of Fearless where Eric (Patrick Wilson), a survivor, was hanging dangerously close the edge of a roof.He was assisted or coaxed down; rather poorly I might add, by the grief counselor or a trauma specialist or what ever it is they call it, Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway).

The star of Princess Diaries is trying to diversify the genres she’s been seen in with Passengers but unfortunately for this film she’s barely surviving. She plays someone who though has had experiences in handling trauma victims seems to be too green in handling this one. Granted that a little awkwardness may be called for in playing Claire she just doesn’t have the aura of a grief counselor in her.

Maybe as a date I would confide problems, cry on her shoulder, but trust her judgment and advice; no. Bottom line is I can still see the Princess Mia, and I don’t want princesses when I just survived a plane crash.

Anne was convincing in the scenes involving Emma Summers (Stacy Grant), Claire’s estranged sister. Unfortunately that bright speck was negated by the lack of chemistry between her and Patrick Wilson. I guess the writers were aiming for spice in putting a love angle between counselor and victim but in the end, I think, that lessened the grief counselor persona.

The brightest performance overall would have to be David Morse as Arkin. His appearances were perfectly timed as he anchored the mystery angle into the story. David really fits the role of villain and when I saw him I immediately went looking for hidden strings, clues to conspiracies, or whatever the movie had in store.

Unfortunately he is just one man. Arkin anchors the mystery and spice that can make or break the movie but he had no other means of support. The script was weak. There was not enough hook to lure the audience in.

Hook the audience in one direction first then twist them in another; that didn’t happen. Passengers’ twist, though common (a few popular movies have used it in fact), could have been perfect if only there was better writing.I was not hooked into the romance nor did I remember any other survivor or their trauma.

I found a clue within the first few minutes in fact, and what kept me from figuring it all out was David Morse. Even with that being said I was 50/50 in getting a conclusion before the movie ends; either one or the other I thought. So instead of being emotionally invested in the character I was betting within myself the outcome which is never a good sign.

What the writers should have developed were the angles on life and death because that’s where the moral of the story is. Life can end quickly. Did you risk it all to have a life? Maybe, come to think of it, that is the point of portraying traumatized people challenging death. Risking is what makes them feel alive; to be alive is to risk.

Life and death, indeed could have saved this movie and not be a rehash of old ideas. And it would have made a perfect loop too in the story with the Summers sisters.The start had Claire phoning Emma, and the end had Emma giving the answer. Passengers indeed could have been the perfect sandwich had the filmmakers made the perfect meat to stand in between Claire phoning and Emma answering.

But alas the film is like its story, a crash landing.