Monday, August 1, 2011

The Passenger (1975)

Not Bad But Not Brilliant

- The Passenger (1975) has a lot to admire. Legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni crafts a visually stunning film - each shot is carefully set up and turns the viewer's eyes into flares staring at the framing and colors (the near final scene of the film is visually incredible). Jack Nicholson gives a very soft and subtle portrayal of David Locke, a man unhappy with his life and therefore trades himself in for a different identity once a man who looks like him dies. Nicholson might not be everyone's first pick to play a soft-spoken British man (who was raised in America, so he has no British accent) but he totally convinces in the role. Also, the film does keep the viewer guessing what each scene will bring throughout Locke's trek across Europe.

Unfortunately, the positive points for The Passenger stops at Nicholson's performance and Antonioni's visual style and the ends up being a partially impressive but also disappointing film experience. One significant problem with the film is that its narrative is not told well at all. The viewer is mainly guessing what the next scene is going to offer because the previous scene was so confusing and it was near impossible to tell who certain characters are and what Nicholson's character wants to do. The main problem with the film, however, is how it generally lacks emotion and/or soul. The film is simply too quiet and too still to spark any kind of emotional response from the viewer.

And oh boy does the film ever need a soundtrack! While Antonioni creates something splendid for the eye, the film moves so slowly - a squished worm on the sidewalk has more movement - and a score could have helped moved the film along and give it a little more emotion.

But The Passenger is never bad enough that one needs to dive frantically for the "STOP" button on the DVD remote - Nicholson and all the pretty pictures save it from obscurity.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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