The Passenger

The Passenger
The Passenger
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The Passenger, directed by Carter Smith (Midnight Kiss, The Ruins), is a somewhat muted but thought-provoking hostage thriller. With Blumhouse being behind this film however one expects equally grit and action. But there’s more of the former than the latter. The movie’s screenplay by Lou writer Jack Stanley delivers a knockout punch in its first 20 minutes and then lowers its tempo to evolve into a hostage thriller with several turns along the way as it eventually builds itself up towards its climax.

Kyle Gallner and Johnny Berchtold are the lead actors while playing two characters who have experienced different traumas in their earlier lives. Benson is played by Gallner, who is a tightly wound-up employee of a burger shack that goes ballistic one morning. This leads to some very disturbing psychological waters which send shockwaves through this entire film where these two very different people must finally confront their own dark pasts.

It’s at this point that Joe Stanley’s script begins an intense underlayer to the story after Benson starts questioning Randy about his life. However, emotionally insecure Randy is yet another type of victim from a different bully who makes him vulnerable in an entirely opposite manner. That condition has become familiar to him and so as they go on this strange road trip, Benson forces Randy through some of his past experiences he’d like nothing better than to forget including probably the most haunting involving a terrible accident with a teacher when he was younger. And now that he has been cornered with a gun pointed at him by Benson giving orders, Randy eventually yields.

When Randy and Benson come back around later on at Randy’s elementary school hoping to find his old teacher things takes off differently in The Passenger. Thereafter since we know how they got into the teacher’s address – and during Saturday mornings for that matter – there does not seem any logic left until eventually Benson loses control over his anger during such outing too. It subsequently unfolds into another tragedy and the movie then takes a turn towards its second act where Randy must be brave enough to stand up himself when he feels cornered with his back against the wall.

Lisa Weil (How To Get Away With Murder, The Cleaning Lady) enters the picture past halfway through playing Miss Beard. It is at this moment that Randy comes face to face with one of his biggest crucibles in his youth. But Benson doesn’t look that satisfied even though it is so. Randy is doing everything that ought to have been done by Benson. Maybe it’s an epiphany like that which forces all the more on Benson’s inner fire.

In terms of performances, Carter Smith does a great job directing this film. Kyle Gallner knows how to brood well – you forget he can actually smile. After seeing him in The Passenger, you can tell he will probably win an Oscar someday. In films such as Mother, May I?, Smile to Scream 5 and many other indie flicks recently, Gallner has shown us vividly how unresolved grief and trauma could sink one into the darkest depths imaginable. Johnny Berchtold does a great job as timid Randy too whom you might have seen in supporting roles from Gaslit or Tiny Beautiful Things before now; however his new portrayal here truly shines and carries along with it a feel of relatability for the audience members themselves too.

Concerning the last 15 minutes of the movie, it manifests as a desperate struggle to take charge, which is between Benson, Randy and in some way Miss Beard. But what really becomes captivating if not how excellently this director makes one feel tensed all through the film is each of these characters’ ways of dealing with their past sufferings. It’s a smart artistic kaleidoscope you can whirl about. Therefore, hold yourself tight. The passenger offers a breathtaking ride that’s unpredictable.

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