The Passenger (Movie Review)

Released on August 4, 2023 through Paramount Home Entertainment On Demand and Digital, The Passenger opens with a scene familiar to many of us. The sun rises as a young man makes his way to work.

The young man in question is twenty-one-year-old Randy Bradley (Johnny Berchtold: Gaslit series, Dog Gone 2023) who works at a fast-food restaurant. Immediately it becomes clear that Randy is shy, quiet and somewhat of a pushover. An obnoxious and bullying co-worker forces him to eat a moldy cheeseburger as a fellow co-worker watch on and the manager, who does not even know Randy’s name, is more interested in watching porn than disciplining his workers. Also observing this sorry scene is another of Randy’s co-workers. Benson (Kyle Gallner: Jennifer’s Body 2009, Smile 2022) does not join in bullying Randy but nor does he say anything either.

The Passenger / Paramount Home Entertainment (2023)

In this first scene, The Passenger feels as though it could morph into any number of genres – a drama, a coming-of-age film, even a Comedy. Yet, as something in Benson snaps and he violently kills all his coworkers, The Passenger suddenly and abruptly becomes a horror. The tension is absolutely palpable as Benson approaches the only person left alive, Randy, and like Randy the audience is on tenterhooks as we wait to see what will happen. For reasons that the audience does not yet know, Benson keeps Randy alive, and after making him help hide the bloody bodies, he forces Randy along with him on a nightmarish road trip.

Directed by Carter Smith (The Ruins 2008, Swallowed 2022) and written by Jack Stanley, The Passenger is a fascinating character study of two men who appear to be complete opposites of each other. The first, Randy, is apologetic and subservient. He is extremely passive and does not challenge anyone, in spite of how much he might disagree with them. Physically he is awkward and squirmy and tries to take up as little space as possible. Benson meanwhile takes up a large amount of space. He swaggers and is confident in what he believes.

The Passenger / Paramount Home Entertainment (2023)

As The Passenger progresses, you get more of an insight into both of these characters and as is true of everyone – there are reasons behind why they are the way they are. Both Berchtold and Gallner are perfectly cast and both characters feel believable and relatable – even when the audience fundamentally disagrees with their actions.

Visually, The Passenger looks great. The color palette feels at times to be slightly muted reflecting the gritty nature of the film, but at other times certain hints of color feel striking and important. Whilst The Passenger never quite lives up to the horror of the first act, eventually transforming into more of a road trip Thriller, it does address many themes and ideas. Brutality, forgiveness, the effect of trauma and Stockholm Syndrome just to name a few.

A film that demonstrates great things from all involved, Cryptic Rock gives The Passenger 4 out of 5 stars.

The Passenger / Paramount Home Entertainment (2023)

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