The Passenger (1975)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Road Movie  |   Release Date - Oct 28, 2005 (USA - Rerelease)  |   Run Time - 126 min.  |   Countries - Italy, Spain  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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The Passenger is a late Antonioni film, made only about a decade after his most influential works had been completed. After the success of Blow-Up (1966), Antonioni was free to write his own ticket, but the result was the disastrous Zabriskie Point (1970), which despite some interesting sequences (particularly the last reel, depicting a sprawling ranch house in the desert exploding repeatedly in slow motion, to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd's "Be Careful with That Ax, Eugene") was a commercial and critical failure that made financing difficult to come by for the director's next project. Combining forces with Jack Nicholson as his lead actor, Antonioni made The Passenger as his first resolutely commercial project, and the results are decidedly mixed. Never comfortable working in English (the best sequences of Blow-Up are conspicuously wordless), Antonioni's tale of jaded television reporter David Locke (Nicholson), who swaps identities with a dead man he comes across in a hotel in Africa while on assignment, plays out like a rather listless remake of one of the director's 1960s classics, in which Alain Delon or Marcello Mastroianni took on the role of one of Antonioni's typically disaffected, seemingly doomed protagonists. The last shot of the film is an extraordinary technical tour de force, but it can't disguise the essential emptiness of the project, which leans much too heavily on Nicholson's screen presence to get its message across. One is never convinced that Nicholson's character is as bored with life as Antonioni would like us to believe; Nicholson's screen persona is simply too resourceful to allow himself to spiritually disintegrate. Revered by many as one of Antonioni's last great films, The Passenger finally seems like a shadow of his past work in film, lacking the necessary commitment to the material that made his earlier works so austere and stunningly original.