The Passenger

August 4, 202360/1005 min
Starring
Kyle Gallner, Liza Weil, Johnny Berchtold
Written by
Jack Stanley
Directed by
Carter Smith
Run Time
1h 34min
Release Date
August 4th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

                    Getting to know oneself can be quite a journey, and learning from it can  also be just as important. And some times, things can occur on your journey that you least expect.  Maybe that moment comes after some traumatic event, or it’s a psychic doing a reading that leads you down the path you need to go. Whatever the method is, when it comes, it comes, and what you do with your life after is completely up to you.  In Carter Smith’s new film The Passenger, Randy (Johnny Berchtold) is given that wakeup call, and before he can decide what to do next, he has to live through the day first.

Randy has a pretty undemanding job at a local burger joint. Every day he seems to stick to his everyday routine while trying to stay invisible to the world as he goes about it. Today though, he is going to be seen, as a fellow co-worker bullies Randy into eating a day-old hamburger in order for him to leave him alone. No other employee says anything, until Benson (Kyle Gallner) starts to stand up for Randy, but he too quickly stands down, or so it seems. Benson soon goes to his car, lights a cigarette, and pulls a shotgun from his trunk, and heads back in. Needless to say, he is not going back to show off his gun, instead he kills everyone except for Randy, whom he takes captive with him. Together, they start driving around. It is during that ride, Benson tries to get to the bottom of why Randy doesn’t stand up for himself. It then becomes a sort of redemption tour for Randy, as Benson tries to teach him how to make decisions.

Writer Jack Stanley tells a disturbing story while revealing layers of his two leads in past traumas. This is not the only driving force behind the leads, they both also have complex personalities, which actually makes you root for both, even if one is a killer. Berchtold and Gallner have great chemistry between them, but Gallner will draw you in the most, and teaming up with director Carter Smith is a dream pairing. The Passenger is not really a thriller but more of a mind game between its two leads, which grows more intense the deeper we get into the movie.

Most of the film takes place on the road, where the two leads hold most of their conversations. Although the story can be violent at times, it really is a story about the weight of guilt and the trauma some of us bury. How we deal with and overcome those obstacles is also at the center of this story and also how we deal with it through others. That is just the backbone of the story though, as it is also quite chilling, which keeps you guessing on what will happen next. Ultimately it’s the two-handerness of it all that keeps you invested, and that makes The Passenger a ride well worth taking.

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