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MOVIE REVIEW

'Passengers' just never takes off

October 27, 2008|Michael Ordona | Ordona is a freelance writer.

"Passengers" boasts a strong cast and feels well intentioned but ultimately suffers from being a trip audiences have taken too many times before.

The gentle mystery-drama follows the aftermath of a plane crash whose few survivors are treated by a young grief counselor, Claire (Anne Hathaway). As she tries to help them cope and possibly unlock a terrible secret, she must also resist falling for one of her charges, the handsome, euphoric Eric (Patrick Wilson). Something turns out to be not right, naturally -- but is it supernatural?

To the filmmakers' credit, "Passengers" does not resort to jumping-out-of-cupboard moments to generate scares, but the film also lacks a certain drive, perhaps a tone of menace or portent, to sufficiently stir up suspense. That's a problem when the use of dour music instructs us that tension is one of the intended components, but the only palpable suspense is in the chords.

As a drama, it only partly works because the post-traumatic stress visited on survivors of catastrophes is not deeply explored, as in, say, Peter Weir's excellent "Fearless."

The acting is generally good, with the likes of Dianne Wiest and Andre Braugher classing up things. Wilson fares best, delivering a layered performance as a man trying to understand things that can't be understood while newly awakened to the sweetness of being alive. But if you're a Hathaway fan and can only see one movie this week, "Rachel Getting Married" is your better bet.

That's because despite its virtues, "Passengers" never gets airborne, weighed down by inescapable predictability and an unremarkable script.

With these actors and Rodrigo Garcia's sensitive direction, "Passengers" might have fared well as a short. But as a full-length feature, it's a long ride to a familiar destination.

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'Passengers'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some scary images and sensuality

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: In general release

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