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Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/5/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/14/2013
I've been a big NFL fan for as long as I can remember, and I've seen many players come and go in the league. When you watch football for several seasons, you note how players begin to lose their skills as they get older. They may not run as fast or tackle as hard as they did when they were rookies. This makes logical sense, as we all lose some physical abilities as we age. So, why do some movie directors seem to drop off in quality as they get older? Do they lose their drive? Do they lose touch with modern pop-culture? In the 1970s, Brian De Palma was seen as a maverick in the film industry. Armed with an undeniable affinity for Hitchcock, De Palma's films like Carrie, The Fury, and Dressed to Kill showed that he had a great visual sense and did not back down from controversial subject matter. But, while De Palma has stayed busy over the years, the quality of his work has steadily declined. His latest effort, Passion, shows a director who appears to be mimicking himself.
Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) works for an advertising agency, and Christine (Rachel McAdams). They get an assignment to create an ad for a phone, and Isabelle's cutting edge idea, which she makes with her assistant, Dani (Karoline Herfuth). The ad garners a lot of attention, but Christine takes the credit for it, much to Isabelle's surprise. Isabelle is also somewhat surprised to learn that she and Christine have both been seeing Dirk (Paul Anderson). As the competition between the two women begins to escalate, the gloves come off -- Isabelle becomes a favorite of the corporate bosses, which Christine stoops to embarrassing her rival in public. Just how far will these two go?
Writing the above synopsis was a challenge because, for the most part, nothing truly interesting happens in the movie. The first two acts play out as a very basic workplace feud story. Other than some language and some sexual references which would have earned the film an R-rating, the intensity of the story never rises above that of something which would air on LifeTime. In fact, everyone here is so sedate, it's actually difficult to gauge how Isabelle and Christine feel about one another at times. We see that they are double-crossing one another, and they should be mad, but other than one well-documented outburst by Isabelle, everyone appears completely unphased by what is happening.
Then, in the third act, Passion goes completely off the rails, as we are treated to a black-gloved killer, hallucinations, and twins. It doesn't feel that the movie has switched gears, rather it feels as if someone has grabbed the remote and we are suddenly watching a different film. If it had worked, it would have been great that the film was diverting away from a workplace squabble. However, it's like De Palma suddenly woke up and realized that he was making and movie and decided to squeeze as many "De Palma-like" things into the last few scenes as he could. The switch from thriller to psychological thriller is a jarring one -- and not in a good way. The audience is left bewildered by the ending, where are treated to dreams and dreamlike visuals, but no clear-cut answers as to what is happening.
Not only is it sad to see that De Palma has fallen so far, but McAdams and Rapace are wasted here as well. McAdams seems to be playing a grown-up version of her character from Mean Girls, but she plays her as too cold. Someone this sinister needs a little fire in their eyes, and we don't get that here. Rapace is too subdued as well. While she does have the one aforementioned emotional moment, she too holds things back and the result is a film which feels very sterile and like rehearsal footage as opposed to the actual movie.
Who fault is all this? I don't know. Passion is a remake of the 2010 film Love Crime, which I have not seen, so I can't comment on how weird that movie gets. As many viewers will do, I turned on Passion and expected one of De Palma's long opening shots, but we don't get one here. While the film is well-photographed throughout (but oddly edited), it doesn't have that De Palma feel until her breaks out the split-screen. By that time, we feel as he's simply grasping for straws, and things only get worse at the movie devolves into what can only be called "De Palma's Greatest Hits (References to his earlier films)". In short, Passion is simply a waste of talent and a waste of time.
Passion never made it clear how the phone and the jeans were related on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Entertainment One. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. Being De Palma, we get some soft shots, but the level of details remains good throughout. The colors look fine, most notably reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and show good separation. The surround sound effects are very detailed at times and the music provides some notable bass response.
The Passion Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Interviews with Brian De Palma, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace" (7 minutes) offers separate talks with these individuals which are edited together with clips from the film. This is simply an advertising piece, as the speakers simply describe the plot and characters while giving no real insight into the movie. And while she's not listed in the piece's title, Karoline Herfuth is featured here as well. The only other extra on the Disc is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long