Sunday, April 11, 2010

Passengers: 2/5

As part of my quest to see all of Anne Hathaway's* movies, I watched Rodrigo Garcia's Passengers last night.  It had a neat---but poorly executed---premise.  Extremely well acted, rather well written, very poorly put together.

*All the most beautiful actresses are brown-eyed brunettes.

Ms. Hathaway plays Claire Summers (the name sounds meaningful but isn't), a therapist (who is either seeking a Ph.D. or already has one) trying to help the survivors of a plane crash deal with their guilt.  There's a twist, but I won't ruin it for you because the movie depends so heavily on it.*  Basically, it's a confusing 92 minutes that are supposed to be cleared up in the last 3.

*I read a great article recently about how it's the How of a story and not the If that keeps us coming back, but I can't seem to find it.  Something to think about when you're writing your next graphic novel.

And that's fine.  It worked for Shyamalan and countless others, so I don't begrudge Garcia going for it.  I do, however, begrudge the poor editing.  It's a bit like a brilliant philosopher who finds the meaning of life but can't put a sentence together in a meaningful way.  No matter how brilliant he or his ideas are, I'll spend so much time figuring out the trees that I'll miss the forest.

I don't want to lambast Thom Noble too much, but he's been doing this since 1966.  He ought to know that when I see two people talking in a car followed by a cut to what looks and sounds like a car driving on a street, I expect it to be the same car.  Or that I need some kind of visual clue about where I'm at (i.e., is this Claire's apartment or Shannon's or Eric's?).  Or that I get really confused when Shot 1---a daylight shot of one character saying to another "Hey, come check this out"---cuts to Shot 2, a nighttime shot of the same two characters getting on a motorcycle.  Is the motorcycle what she was supposed to check out?  Or is the director keeping something hidden from us?

It's not that my expectations ought to rule the movie.  Instead, when little expectations---like a noun coming at the beginning of a sentence---aren't met, I have to stop and think about what's being said.  I have to translate the visual sentence into something meaningful.  I spent so much of this movie translating the trees that I would have missed the forest if Garcia hadn't burned the whole thing down in a Shyamalanian bonfire.

And I felt played at the end.  What began as a mystery thriller turned into a paranormal thriller in the last act before phasing into a family drama for the epilogue.  I'm just saying.

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