A handful of eerily staged scenes and a surfeit of passably evocative production design can't save the otherwise muddled Passengers, in which Anne Hathaway stars as a grief counselor assigned to help survivors of a fiery plane crash. In trying to tick a wide variety of genre boxes, the movie ends up servicing none that credibly.

Assigned by her boss (Andre Braugher) to help walk a quintet of airplane crash survivors through their shock and grief, psychologist Claire Summers (Hathaway) encounters particular difficulties with one of them, Eric (Patrick Wilson). While others display behavior more consistent with massive trauma, Eric is bouncy and charged by a newfound energy. He flirts with Claire, and asks her out on dates, which strikes her as odd. As her other clients begin to disappear, though, Claire finds herself swimming in paranoia, suspecting a strange airline employee (David Morse) of having a hand in their disappearance, possibly to cover up the real reasons for the crash.

Narratively, Passengers marks a departure from the past films of Colombian-born director Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives), whose recent small screen work on HBO's In Treatment showcased a level of psychological engagement not on display here. Passengers' mystery never takes hold, mainly because Ronnie Christensen's script is a thinly sketched mood-piece of appropriated motifs and characterizations. Almost a decade on, the huge success of M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense is still spawning mystery-thrillers that seem chiefly backwards-plotted, with gimmicky point-of-view pivots that are meant to draw appreciative audience reactions out of a re-framing of the narrative.

Given the loose, unrealistically pitched nature of some of the characters in Passengers, though, it's quickly apparent that the movie isn't a straight dramatic telling, and only a small handful of scenarios seem plausible. Rodrigo, accordingly, is left to try to imprint and impress a unifying visual strategy on this forestalled revelation, with only fitful success. For the full review, from Screen International, click here. (Sony/TriStar, PG-13, 93 minutes)


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