The tag line for Passengers blares “The line between this world and the next is about to be crossed,” boldly over the cover of the DVD box. What could this possibly mean? What does the “next” world have to do with a bunch of passengers on a crashing plane? The cover also features white, loosely-visible people filling up the space behind a freaked out looking Patrick Wilson. Well, put the tagline and the invisi-people together and you probably have the answer to the equation that is Passengers. If you either can’t figure it out or are choosing to remain belligerently naïve then go ahead and either read on, or watch the film and be mildly shocked by the ending.
Psychotherapist, Claire (Anne Hathaway) gets woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call about multiple survivors of a plane crash that need counseling. She slicks her hair back and heads straight to the hospital, where she comes across Eric, a mysteriously upbeat survivor who just so happens to be naked (Patrick Wilson). After he hits on her in his bloody naked stupor, the two strike up a chemistry-free flirtation and she starts making house calls. Claire sets up group therapy sessions for the survivors that aren’t Eric, leaving plenty of opportunities for Hathaway to sound somewhat professional while spouting psychobabble. Survivors start disappearing, with each disappearance being clouded by mystery and somehow linked to airport employee David Morse. There is some confusion about why exactly the plane crashed, and this seems to be the driving force behind the “mystery.”
The entire movie reeks of a big fancy plot twist ending, you can just tell that the whole raison d’etre of Passengers is packed into those last ten minutes when everything is revealed. This leaves very little going for the bulk of the film. Hathaway wanders aimlessly through the sparse plot, seeming to relish a role that is much more grown up than the women she usually plays. She is charmingly full of chaotic energy throughout the film, but disastrously boring to watch at the same time. Wilson shows up playing his typical sweet somewhat-goofy gentleman role. Although their romance is definitely attractive on the outside, just like the rest of the film, it certainly doesn’t hold water. The romance is about breaking the boundary of client and counselor, and that is about it. The plot of the film is about giving away just enough to make you intrigued, but not enough to make you understand what is actually happening. Both are painfully one note and transparent.
If the ending were super original and/or awesomely science-fiction oriented, all would be forgiven. It is neither. This ending has been done on so many movie screens, in so many different films that it can barely pass as an original ending anymore; it should really be considered a genre at this point. The movie builds up towards the reveal, which does indeed happen ten minutes before the end of the film, and exposes pertinent information like it has never been done. This leaves Hathaway, Wilson, Morse and Clea DuVall looking like jackasses for choosing a script with such a cliché ending.
Since the film begins with a plane crash, drawing Lost comparisons is inevitable. Passengers does have a lot of things in common with the television show, but quality isn’t one of them. The two plots follow the survivors of a plane crash as they maneuver their way in a confusing new post-tragedy world. The DVD cover of Passengers seems to promise science fiction, but doesn’t deliver until the very end, while Lost is starting to deliver consistently on the sci-fi front. On all accounts, Lost is the victor in the plane-crash-plot competition. While Lost simmers in mystery while simultaneously maintaining intrigue, Passengers just withholds information until the final jump-the-shark ending. If hadn’t already watched Passengers done better on a weekly basis, I might have enjoyed it. Well, that might not be true, because I’ve seen the ending done better numerous times too. If I didn’t watch Lost and hadn’t seen other movies with the same ending, Passengers could have blown my mind. In other words, in some parallel dimension, Passengers is a kick-ass movie. Not here.
As a DVD, Passengers is surprisingly flush with extras. This release includes two long featurettes, three deleted scenes and feature commentary with director Rodrigo Garcia and Patrick Wilson. Since the featurettes are packed with spoilers, whatever you do, do not watch the bonus features before you watch the film!
The first featurette is called “Analysis of the Plane Crash,” and goes into the making of the plane crash shown at the very end of the film, and a little into the plane wreckage used at the beginning of the film. Most of the interviews were with technical wizards who have a big part in making a very small portion of the movie. The techno-babble went right over my head. The featurette is very long and I’m sure worth watching if you know a lick about green screen technology.
Next is a featurette about the characters in the movie called “The Manifest and Making of Passengers.” There is a long introduction to the characters, in which the assistant director talks a lot about how great everyone is and how lucky they were to get everyone that they got. This then segues into a character breakdown with interviews with the actors. It isn’t quite thorough enough, especially when it comes to the supporting cast. The featurette reads like one long mutual ego stroke between everyone involved in the making of this movie. It was a little nauseating, especially when Wilson and Hathaway were going back and forth about how cute and talented the other is.
There are three deleted scenes included on the disc. They are each short and strangely at odds with the mood of the film. The first unpacks a giant fight between Wilson and Hathaway in which she accuses him of being a spy for the airlines. The second follows her as she drives a patient home and the therapist words she spews at him when he confronts her with paranoia surrounding the airline. The last deleted scene is a dream with Hathaway and her sister in the movie. It was strange and interesting to see the scenes that hit the cutting room floor for this movie as the acting in them was super strained looking and the dialogue not believable at all. I think these were the most polished looking but least cohesive sounding deleted scenes I’ve ever experienced.
The audio commentary with the Garcia and Wilson is really just more of the second featurette. They go in for some more ego-stroking and never come up for air. They talk a lot about how unique the story is, how unique the aesthetic of the film is and how they were so compelled by the end of the film. They mostly just talk about the actors in the film though. They both have a particular fascination with David Morse and his tallness. They both seem to think they have made a wonderful film filled to the brim with talent.