Directed by Brian Franklin and written by Sinead Beverland, a naive young husband must face down his obsessive and psychotic friend when their plan to elicit a confession from his adulterous wife ends in murder. Starring: Luke Christian, Isaac Money and Abbie Steele.
This film doesn’t waste much time getting into its rhythm, it may spend a couple of minutes with Dan (Money) and Charlotte (Steele) classically bickering like every married couple but as soon as Samuel (Christian) steps onto the scene, things get real uncomfortable, real fast. The tone that the film creates is all about discomfort, Samuel has an overwhelming frustrating and infuriating presence that you can’t escape. Especially given the choice to shoot the whole thing using GoPro cameras, it adds that extra edge of claustrophobia and dials up that uncomfortable atmosphere to the max. It’s a risky choice as the success of the entire thing becomes predicated on how that frustration is relieved in its resolution.
In this case, it’s a rather varied level of success, it does build that discomfort well and the directorial style emphasises it positively rather than making it feel too closed off, the choices Franklin makes feel very fitting to the story that it’s telling. However there are some moments that it may have been beneficial to use a harsher edit, particularly in pulling off a death scene, it’s a difficult thing to do convincingly and using a more graceful solution of cutting away would have helped it feel less awkward, while still getting across the same message. More emotional scenes are something that the film does struggle with, the performances can go a little over the top and the believability starts to waiver.
The story presents an interesting moral dilemma and psychological quandary of where your sympathy should lie or whether there’s any to be had at all. Some people might feel most for Dan (Money) having been cheated on but he also agreed for a stranger to deceptively harass his wife, there’s no love lost for Samuel who is clearly a psychopath and your view on Charlotte (Steele) will likely depend on your stance on cheating and forgiveness, so it’s entirely possible that you end up with no-one to root for. Therein lies a key issue with the story, there’s nothing tangible to invest in to hold you through to its resolution. It plays its hand far too early in the game and you can see its final destination, which when blended with that lack of a character to get behind, it starts to let go of your attention somewhat. It builds up this intense amount of frustration in its viewers but by the end there’s no satisfying way to release it because the focus has entirely shifted onto Samuel and there’s nothing but infuriation to be found with him.
However, that does go to show how intense Christian’s performance is that he will genuinely make you hate him, he’s a detestable character who clearly takes pleasure in other’s pain and he gets that across effortlessly. It mostly follows the one note but earlier in the film where he uses a dual personality to deceive Charlotte and how he slowly lets that mask slip is well done. Money and Steele give similar performances, they’re solid but when they veer into more of the emotional or intense they become less convincing, towards the end Money does push it a little too far over the top which is a shame to see so late in the game.
The Passenger is an interesting concept and feels akin to Doctor Foster, a personal drama with ramped up intensity but it’s missing that central energy or focus to see it through to the end. It’s executed creatively, the directorial style strongly establishes an atmosphere of discomfort and tension and it certainly doesn’t skimp on pushing your buttons with its relentless nature. Ultimately it simply doesn’t have enough to it, you can see where it’s going and its journey doesn’t end in a satisfying enough manner to justify building up all that tension.