Posted by: Eddie | December 21, 2009

Passengers: Sometimes knowing nothing helps

The 2008 movie ‘Passengers’ was quite soundly dismissed by critics when it came out.  I hadn’t really heard anything about it, or even of it for that matter.  I watched it on Fios ‘On Demand’ and was surprised at how much I liked it.

If you know nothing about this movie, and want to see if you have the same experience I did, then stop reading this, and go watch it.  Then come back here and keep reading:

I went in with no knowledge of it, and no expectations.  Anne Hathaway was quite likeable as the lead, and Patrick Wilson was also endearing (and boy-next-door sexy as all get out) as her patient/love interest.

Because I had read only the FiOS one line blurb I was expecting it to be a straightforward drama, which it isn’t.  I think if I had known just a little more about it I would have been trying to “guess what was going on” a little more, and perhaps been just as jaded as most critics who saw it were.

However, knowing so little about it, I just watched it unfold, and by the end was completely caught up in the story, and while I did figure out “where it was going” near the end, was nevertheless very moved by it, and actually found myself getting more than a little misty-eyed.

This happens more than we may realize: simply knowing the general intended genre of a movie (eerie mystery vs. straightforward drama vs supernatural horror etc.) can make things too obvious or contrived.  But, if we go in with “fresh eyes”, watching the movie as it presents itself with no preconceived notion of its categorization or other clues to tell us where it’s heading, the same movie can feel fresh and delightful.

Such was the case for me with Passengers.  Seeing it more directly let me see its virtues without having my own attempts to second guess it or “figure it out” get in the way.  The solid acting, endearing characters, and ultimately very moving story could then shine without being so easily dismissed because I happened to figure it out early on.

It had an oddly emotionally distant manner that also may be off-putting at first, but it continuously warms up as it goes along, and so it never feels stifling or flat. This emotional coolness also has an explanation at the end that works well.

SERIOUS SPOILERS:  The movie’s “twist”, that Anne Hathaway and all the other characters are dead, would soon been obvious if I went in to the movie knowing it was a “supernatural” mystery.  But, knowing nothing about it, I took it at face value as an everyday drama about corporate corruption and a coverup.

Because I wasn’t expecting any “twist” at the end, it was able to effectively surprise me, and then the quick recap of how it all fit together was quite lovely.

Small roles by Dianne Wiest, David Morse, Clea DuVall, and Andre Braugher all contribute to a solid cast that does an excellent job.

The movie’s conceit is a bit thin, especially if you go in knowing there must be some sort of non-reality-based “secret”, but without the habit of constantly trying to second-guess the movie and figure it out I could see it for what it was: a marvelously acted movie with appealing characters, an intriguing mystery that keeps you interested, and a resolution that is emotionally powerful and satisfying.

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