The Passenger at the IMDb
Jack Nicholson stars in this ponderous two hour drama that isn’t as smart or as insightful as you’d expect.
Jack plays a jaded war correspondent trying and failing to interview some rebels in Africa so he can complete his film. Much of the opening ten minutes is devoid of dialogue as Jack frustrations mirror those of the viewer who is yelling ‘get on with it!’. He eventually gets stranded on a sand dune and abandons his Landover after giving it a thorough spanking with a spade. He returns to his hotel and ponders over his next move.
He visits the room next door to talk with a businessman with whom he has struck up a friendship but finds that he has died of a heart attack. For reasons not immediately apparent Jack switches passport photos with the dead man and goes to reception to report ‘his’ death. He then assumes the dead man’s life and starts to keep his appointments. On recovering documents from a left luggage locker he learns his new life is that of a gun runner and he quickly harvests a fat wad of cash when he manages to bluff his buyers.
Back in London Jack’s office are making enquiries, with his wife, who is having an affair, also keen to learn of Jack’s last days. When Jack spots his old boss in Barcelona seeking a meeting with his new identity he asks a young student to grab his stuff from the hotel. This helpful girl (Maria Schneider) happily plays along and soon the pair are travelling around Spain in an open top car and making whoopee.
It’s not long however before the police, Jack’s wife and boss and the duped gun buyers are all closing in and we have to wonder if it was worth all the effort.
I didn’t like this film much. It was too full of its own importance with long ponderous scenes meandering by with nothing to say. I got the ideas being offered about identity and isolation and trying to break free from the constraints of society but it just came across as a bit of a caper that hadn’t been thought through.
Jack is always watchable but it was hard to engage with his selfish and random character. His literally life changing decision came across as a whim and he didn’t really do much with it apart from get jiggy with the lovely Maria, which is fair enough I suppose.
I know it wasn’t the focus of the drama but a bit more danger from the gun buyers would have been welcome as two hours of Jack being a bit lost and wistful was too much to take. With the long investment in the film the ending was a letdown and although the single 8 minute shot may be seen as innovative it just came over as lazy editing and unfocused film making.
I can see this playing well to the art cinema audience with plenty of room left for conjecture and theorizing about Jack’s motivations and the metaphors employed. For me this barely qualified as entertainment and although the premise was interesting the execution was overlong and too ponderous to garner half marks.
THE Tag Line - Passenger Taxes! 46%