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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best film of the 1970s?
A jaded journalist steals another man's identity & gets embroiled in arms trafficking connected to North African liberation movements.
In the early 1970s there were many attempts to fuse the European art house movie with the Hollywood thriller - The Passenger is probably the most successful example, though today it will probably appeal to art house cinephiles more...
Published on 2 Nov 2007 by HJ

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Passenger revisited
I was curious to see how much the film had dated as it was made in 1975. It had in some respects - costume, bell bottom jeans and so on, but cinematographically and in the editing and direction it stood the test of time well.
Published 5 months ago by David Halliday


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Nicholson capturing his laconic style, 1 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Great movie with no high drama. Death is inevitable for the state of mind described in the early phase of the film. It is as if the people are already dead with no reason to engage with life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decent pressing, 3 Jan 2013
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M. J. Smith - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Decent disc of this now very old (dated?) but in lots of ways classic movie. Of course the style, daring in its time, seems more everyday, not to say slow, now ...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Begging for a top notch Blu-Ray release, 8 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
A great existential road movie with very little plot it reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master' in that we have a great lead performance, in my opinion one of Nicholson's best, a simple plot but with deep themes and ideas. It's also open to interpretation and this is really a film where you get what you put in. But most of all the thing these two films share in common; amazing visuals.
Wow, the angles, the camera movements, the framing and the images are all so amazing. Intimate close-ups and iconic images such as Nicholson hanging out of the cable car and some stunning vistas; from the shots of the desert to the rooftops of Barcelona and ending in the Spanish countryside the scale of the imagery is magnificent.
The DVD picture quality is really good but this film is crying out to have a high quality Blu-Ray transfer. The natural light of these amazing exterior shots and wide endless landscapes would look amazing on Blu. However, it's not currently available on Blu-Ray and I personally haven't heard if it will even get a release on Blu. So buy it on DVD, it's still amazing to look at but keep in mind you'll want to upgrade when they finally get round to a re-release.

Like 'The Master' it's not for everyone, you have to be in the right mind-set and you only get what you put into it, though no one could deny that the visuals are breathtaking.
It's less of a movie and more a cinematic experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Never Knew Him, 28 Nov 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
For Jack Nicholson, Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 surreal identity mystery The Passenger was sandwiched between his classic performances in Chinatown and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and whilst Antonioni's film is impressive in a number of respects, for me, Nicholson's performance (albeit in a very different type of film), and the film in general, rather pale in comparison with these masterpieces (well, what wouldn't, I guess?).

The Passenger's tale of lost (or discarded) human identity uses as its basis a relatively well explored cinematic idea, that of the switching of identity, in this case that of Nicholson's TV documentarist David Locke with (perhaps unfortunately for him) an arms trader who dies in the hotel he and Locke are sharing. Antonioni has then embellished this central idea with his trademark radical (existentialist) film-making approach, albeit in a rather more restrained manner than in many of his other works, thereby giving rise to something of an understated, fantastic, but flawed, classic. My overall feeling is that there is a potential masterpiece somewhere in here trying to get out, but whilst The Passenger does maintain a good (albeit inconsistent) level of viewer intrigue, enhanced (for the most part) by Antonioni's usual dose of unexplained plot points, bouts of rambling (philosophical) dialogue, strange coincidences and odd/off-centre camera panning and angles, etc, the film is slightly overblown and overlong.

Acting-wise, Nicholson is, as ever, good in the central role, albeit the role requires significantly less (emotive) acting than he is perhaps used to, thereby giving rise to what is (for him) a very understated performance. Ian Hendry's Martin Knight, Locke's ex-colleague who tries to track down the 'real' arms dealer David Robertson (whose identity Locke has assumed) is sadly underused, whilst Nicholson's 'co-star', Maria Schneider, as the mysterious girl Locke comes across, turns in another muted performance. On a more positive note, Luciano Tovoli's cinematography is impressive throughout, whether it be shooting seemingly endless African desert landscapes or the architectural splendour of Gaudi's Barcelona.

In summary, The Passenger represents a very interesting and laudable attempt by its director to perhaps tread a rather more commercial path, whilst still retaining much of his distinctive film-making style. The film is also, of course, notorious for its extended tracking shot near the end of the film, and whilst this is certainly impressive (particularly in the way it cleverly links to a major plot development), in the stakes of 'most memorable long tracking shots ever', I would have to opt for that at the start of Welles' Touch Of Evil.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Change down a gear....and, 8 Nov 2012
By 
Tim Kidner "Hucklebrook Hound" (Salisbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
As others have said, this is one of those films to settle into and like those classic series that take a few weeks to get under one's skin, The Passenger takes a few minutes to adjust to - and ultimately, appreciate.

Those looking for Nicolson's trademark snarling put-downs (aren't we all?) and cocky but infectious rogue-types, will be very disappointed - he's almost a nobody, purposefully transparent and anonymous that his character is.

Out in the desert wastes of Morocco, he's the complete opposite to Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, an uptight, middle-aged British (yes!!) reporter, with a sun-hat pulled down and boring clothes. What's he doing there? Well, that's part of the slow but mesmerising story that director Michelangelo Antonioni (who made his name in London with his brilliant but obscure 'Blow Up') unfolds for us.

When he finds a colleague mysteriously dead in the "hotel" he's sharing, he swaps identity with him, like a snake changing its skin. Why? Well, that's another slow, elongated mystery that may get answered, or not. The landscapes are absorbing, but honest - no shimmering sunsets or hovering mirages - and these do provide the framework in which everything else fits into.

The locations then switch between North Africa and London and some driving between the two, making an effective and interesting travelogue/road movie, as well. The time-frames shuttle back too, as we see his character as he was, his past life, as it were, perhaps the clues reveal themselves, perhaps not...

This Nicolson feature is one that's easy to let slip under the radar - I went through a stage a while back when I collected Jack's films from the 1970's and 80's, all quite cheap and largely very good. To my mind, I'll never enjoy him so much as the Joker in Batman or Johnny in The Shining, but here is a versatile and superb actor doing something a little bit different.

The Passenger may still be one more for the critics, but slow down a gear or two and just let it unravel. It's also one that gets better on the second viewing. Watch out also for one of the longest (and cleverest) single-shot takes in movie history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Existential Arthouse, 13 Mar 2011
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tallmanbaby (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I missed this film when my student film society showed it in the early eighties, but the description of a dissillusioned journalist who swaps identities with a dead man stuck with me. In a nutshell it is the perfect existential arthouse plot.

Like The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. Benn and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin: Complete Box Set [DVD] it is all about identity.

The first twenty minutes are almost unbearably slow, but serve to put you into the right frame of mind for the film. It requires close observation and a questioning approach. Everything that we see is potentially significant and it would repay repeated viewings. The film is surprising good with its globetrotting, too often a lazy director shows us a London bus to tell us we are in London, here all the countries and people are displayed without caricature or malice.

Despite being over two hours long, once it gets going it is an engaging and intelligent film, attractively shot, underplayed by the cast, with an intelligent script. Nicholson is surprisingly good in this arthouse film.

It could easily be remade today.

I am marking it down to four stars because the later third does get slightly repetitive with Nicholson and Schnieder visiting different hotels, without ever seeming to pass through any industrial estates or council estates, and the ending is a bit cryptic. It took me a bit of digging on the internet to figure out exactly what had happened. To me there also seemed to be a slight uncertainty in tone about the threats faced.

In terms of extras, there are a couple of commentaries and a hysterically overblown trailer for the film which is amusing in its way.

A very watchable arthouse classic that should repay repeated viewings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 9 Mar 2011
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A. J. Morris (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
After getting used to HD, the opening minutes of this movie worried me. Looked cheap, a bit of a mess. But... wow. I loved this film! It's intimate, fascinating, shocking and a real blast of 70s nostalgia. Maria Schneider is so 'there', I'm not sure she's even acting.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Antonioni, 5 Sep 2006
This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I'd heard about this but never had the opportunity to see it before this release. It was worth the wait. The cinematography by Carlo Ponti is wonderful and brings the best out of the fantastic locations. The two leads are great: it makes a nice change seeing Nicholson underplaying it for a change - a great and subtle performance. And Maria Schnieder is very effective playing against him (Did she have breast reduction between Last Tango and this?) Full of classic Antonioni images that will be imprinted on my mind for a long time to come. Recommended.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely essential 70's cinema, 4 Jun 2006
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This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I'm not going to write a long, bloated review demonstrating how well I know this film or how auteur-savvy I am ,or repeating the usual things people say about this film, like Nicholson's quiet, concentrated performance, or the tour de force crane shot that 'wraps' things up at the end, or the long stretches typical of Antonioni where nothing yet everything appears to happen. I have seen this film innumerable times since copying it off TV when it was shown on BBC2's Film Club back in spring 1987 and have long anticipated a buffed-up DVD edition. The Nicholson commentary track is a huge bonus since he very rarely does them, and this on one of his best movies. In fact this is maybe one of the least-seen films featuring a MAJOR star ever made, especially coming from the same span in the mid-70's when Jack was maybe at his zenith and made CHINATOWN, CUCKOO's NEST, LAST DETAIL, etc. I think it is also one of Antonioni's best and not a pale imitation of his past glories as some have said, although it is way better than ZABRISKIE POINT, his American misfire.

My favourite moments in THE PASSENGER: the opening 20 mins in the stifling heat of North Africa, Jack's character Locke running off the track in his Land Rover and screaming up at the indifferent sky; him walking around a very quiet-looking London, the sound of the wind in the trees as he opens his old front door; Gaudi buildings in Barcelona; Maria Schneider asking him towards the end what he's running from, and he tells her to turn her back to the front seat, which she does, giggling then somber, and the camera takes her POV and we see just a tree-lined road receding, receding.....Maria, R.I.P. You gave a performance of great mystery and beauty.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watchable existential road movie, 29 Nov 2012
This review is from: The Passenger [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
NOTE: I'm unsure if I saw the original edit or the extended 2005 version.

David Locke (Jack Nicholson) is a reporter who is tired of it all. In a remote part of Africa he comes across the dead body of a man in a hotel room. He decides to swap identities with the deceased. He finds that the man has an appointment book, so Locke decides to keep the meetings in it.

Not a lot happens at a fairly slow pace. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere specific, but it pulled the rug out from under me with a circular poetic ending that was satisfying and kind of meaningful in a pretentious, don't think too much about it way.

The opening is a bit bumpy and challenging. It really doesn't make any effort to be overtly appealing and audience friendly. After he discovers the body the film picks up and is sort of enjoyable. Or at least as much as a movie like this can be. It was not designed to be straightforward entertainment as the intention was clearly to make a slow, meandering, hollow art movie. The movie is all about tone and mood with little regard for telling a conventional story.

I was going along with the flow and I didn't mind the film until the last half hour. There is only so much vagueness I can take before it starts to stretch my patience. My usually complaint with these type of movies is that they could do with being as short as possible. The story can be told just as effectively at 80-90 minutes as it can over two hours. The film falls into this category. Some pruning wouldn't have done any harm. Movies don't need to be slow to signify that they are important and saying something.

The last half hour was hard going but the last seven minutes are impressive. It was cleverly conceived and filmed with a bit of surreal poetry to it.

The characters are very disconnected, which is the point. They are very sketchy with little to no dialogue to say to each other. Basically it's your typical say something by saying nothing art movie. The dialogue scenes never really get going, leaving whole relationships massively underdeveloped; and the gun-running subplot barely gets started.

It's not technically a well made movie. I watched a high definition TV broadcast and the film looked cheap, nasty and dirty. The camera pans are very creaky. It's like the tripod needed a good squirt of WD40. Visually I was reminded of the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy. The dusty isolated towns and the dubbed on later soundtrack are very reminiscent of those films.

The soundtrack is very odd. The ambient sounds (wind, trees rustling, office and street noises, traffic etc) are very high in the audio mix. It's a very noisy movie because of this. Also the sound effects are loud so they have an exaggerated unreality to them. I don't remember hearing any music in the film.

It was alright. It could have been significantly better and more entertaining. There are a bunch of interesting ideas in it (his wife chasing after him, how the film ends) but the story barely gets going. It's an existential film from an existential director so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I just feel the plot could have been better developed, the pace tightened (and the running time reduced) and that the characters could have been allowed to talk to each other for more than a few inconclusive terse words.

I didn't mind the film for the first ninety minutes. The last half hour was a bit of a crawl but the ending was worth it. The tone and feel of the film makes it worth seeing. As I said, I really like the ending. On balance I would say it was alright, but not something I can get excited by. There are good and bad things about the film. Overall the bad is more prominent than the good. I would describe the movie as below average. It will probably stay with me for weeks later as I doubt it's easily forgotten.

The only other Michelangelo Antonioni movie I've seen is Blow Up (1966). I think The Passenger is the weaker film of the two.

NOTE 1/12/12: Already looking back on it I feel much kinder towards it. I gave it two stars but I've now upped it to three.

Blow-Up (1966) - It's a good solid film even though it has a plot that could be told in 30 minutes. It's not that slow feeling until the last stretch, after the two aspiring models leave, after that it does begin to drag. To call it a masterpiece is to go crazy but it's an enjoyable enough film that doesn't choke on its own pretentions. It also gets bonus points for being lucky enough to be set in a culturally important time and place. It could have done with losing two redundant scenes though - the photoshoot with the five models at the start as we've already seen him do a photoshoot in the previous scene, and the Yardbirds concert also adds nothing of note.
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