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Passengers (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/12/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/14/2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote in a review something to the effect that I may as well start a regular column dedicated to the overwhelming number of remakes that we see. Similarly, I could consistently write something called, "I know these people, why haven't I heard of this movie?" This would address those straight-to-DVD titles which seemingly come out of nowhere yet feature actors who rarely appear in movies which by-pass theaters. When one watches these movies, it usually doesn't take long to figure out why you've never heard of the movie. If I were doing a column like that, today's entry would be Passengers.

Passengers opens with a plane crash. Psychologist Dr. Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway) is called in to work with the survivors. She's nervous about the assignment, but her mentor, Perry (Andre Braugher) insists that she needs to start doing some serious work. At the hospital, she meets one of the survivors, Eric (Patrick Wilson), who isn't acting as if he's lived through a disaster. He's slightly giddy, yet calm, and doesn't hide the fact that he finds Claire attractive. She invites him to therapy group, but he declines. Claire does meet with three other survivors -- Dean (Ryan Robbins), Shannon (Clea DuVall), and Janice (Chelah Horsdal) -- and is surprised to learn that their stories about the crash don't gel with the airlines official report. Claire visits Eric at his home and he again acts oddly and doesn't want to talk about the crash. Despite the fact that it goes against her ethical code, Claire begins to fall for Eric. But, she also needs to explore her patient's stories and learn if the airline is participating in a cover-up.

Anne Hathaway is in this? She's one of Hollywood's brightest young stars at the moment, able to go back and forth between comedy and drama. Passengers has got to be good. What's this? The supporting cast has Patrick Wilson, Dianne Weist, David Morse, Andre Brauhger, and the cigarette smoking man from The X-Files. Why haven't I heard of this movie?

Why haven't you heard of this movie? That's easy to answer. Ignore that burning plane on the beach, because Passengers is a train-wreck. And for once, it's easy to spread the blame around. First, we have to scold writer Ronnie Christensen, who has made a career writing made-for-TV movies. The story in Passengers is very cliched and I felt that I'd seen this movie many, many times. For starters, the movie owes a great debt to The Survivor (1981) and Sole Survivor (1983), as Passengers has many elements in common with those films. (Perhaps the filmmakers behind this movie felt that no one would remember those obscure, older films.) I could name many other movies which Passengers "references" (for lack of a better or more insulting term), but that would lead to a lot of spoilers. Suffice it to say that if you've ever seen a psychological thriller before, then you'll be able to see the ending coming from a very long way off.

Did I say psychological thriller? Is that what Passengers is? I honestly don't know. I had seen the trailer, and as I watched the movie I kept saying, "I thought that something supernatural happened here..." This is where we call Director Rodrigo Garcia into question. He has directed various projects in the past, but other than Carnivale, which I understand has supernatural elements, he's never done anything like this before...and it shows. On the audio commentary, he notes that he was out of his element and didn't know how to approach the material. I'm not sure if he knows how to approach filmmaking. The movie drags on and on, showing pacing which redefines slow and slack. I heard "slow burn" mentioned on the commentary, so, as with many other directors, Garcia confuses nothing happening with the buildup of suspense. He introduces the characters and the main ideas, and then he doesn't know what to do with them. Is this movie about an airline cover-up? Is it about Claire's relationship with Eric? Is something menacing happening? At times, it's like every scene has been taken from a different movie and nothing gels. By the time that the plot twist emerges, we're so bored that we don't care.

Did this project look better on paper? How was Anne Hathaway roped into this? The movie is cliched, corny, and poorly made. While the cast tries their best, they can't overcome the retread story and the unsure direction. To make matters worse, here's yet another movie where a therapist falls in love with their patient. As someone who has worked in the mental health field, I can tell you that this rarely happens and I wish that Hollywood would move past this.

Passengers crashes and burns on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only slight grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good and skin tones look realistic. The image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of depth and detail. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite the surprisingly low bitrate, the sound here is fine. The plane crash scene provides very nice surround sound and subwoofer effects, helping to heighten the reality of the situation. Outside of that, we get some nice stereo effects during street scenes. These moments show good speaker separation and a nice amount of detail.

The Passengers Blu-ray Disc offers a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Rodrigo Garcia and Patrick Wilson. "Analysis of a Plane Crash" (16 minutes) immediately contains spoilers, so don't watch it first. Through interviews and on-set footage, Garcia and the visual effects team show us how the plane crash and the aftermath were created. "The Manifest and Making of Passengers" (23 minutes) brings us comments from the cast and crew who discuss the story, the characters, and the production. While there are plenty of clips from the film, the piece also contains a nice amount behind-the-scenes footage. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES, which run about 8 minutes. The conversation between Claire and Eric contains some new ideas, but otherwise the other two scenes are throwaway.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought Passengers to DVD. Again the film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing slight grain. There is a notable level of noise and artifacting here, but not so much as to be distracting. The colors are good and the image is well-balanced. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers good surround and subwoofer at times, but the stereo effects aren't as detailed as those on the Blu-ray Disc.

The extras found on the DVD are the same as those on the Blu-ray Disc.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long