Passion only has two things going against it, the screenplay and Noomi Rapace, but those are huge issues that are hard to overcome. That being said, I do think there’s enough here that it might be worth checking out especially if you are a fan of either Rachel McAdams or Brian De Palma (for his directing style).
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Drama
Entertainment One | R – 102 min. – $29.98 | November 5, 2013
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Writer(s): Brian De Palma (written by)
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth, Paul Anderson
Theatrical Release Date: August 30, 2013 (limited release)
Features: Interviews, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH
Disc Size: 20.6 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Brian De Palma is perhaps the most confounding director still working today. Well, maybe second to Francis Ford Coppola whose career has taken a… unique turn since directing arguably the four best movies in history (The Godfather 1 & 2, Apocalypse Now and the underappreciated The Conversation). De Palma for his part has turned in a few gems, my favorites being Blow Out but his resume also includes Carrie and Dressed to Kill, the latter Passion is akin to. However, his filmography in the late 20th and 21st centuries have been, at best, spotty the low point being the dreadful Mission to Mars.
Now his latest, Passion, opens to horrid reviews but is the movie really that bad, misunderstood or a mere misfire? Eh, I guess a bit of the last two, not nearly terrible but the film has its share of problems.
** Note: This portion of the review contains spoilers about the plot. **
Christine (RACHEL MCADAMS) is a successful supervisor for an international advertising company. Isabelle (NOOMI RAPACE) is her susceptible underling and at first the two seem like good friends but it’s deceiving. When Christine sends Isabelle to London for a presentation, Christine’s boyfriend, Dirk (PAUL ANDERSON), accompanies knowing the area and we discover Isabelle and Dirk are having an affair. Back home in Berlin, the executives flipped over the advertising video that Isabelle and her assistant Dani (KAROLINE HERFURTH) had filmed prior, but on a video conference, Christine takes credit leaving Isabelle stunned, even hurt.
But Isabelle puts it behind her and the two are kind of besties again, in fact perhaps more so, as she discovers on the way to a fashion event where the two lock lips in a move that surprises Isabelle and meets the dreams of numerous teenage boys worldwide. In the meantime, Christine has some problems at work as she allowed Dirk to embezzle millions from the company but with an audit coming, threatens to expose him unless he pays the money back.
But the problems don’t stop there, Isabelle learns well from her mentor and when her advertisement campaign was going to be pulled by corporate, she takes the initiative and uploads it to YouTube where it’s an instantaneous success getting an astounding 10 million views in on 5 hours (really???). This impresses the bosses and although before they offered Christine a promotion and move to the New York offices, that has been withdrawn and now Isabelle is the rising star in the company. Meow.
If full on war wasn’t on before, now it is and does it ever get messy especially when Christine taps into Isabelle’s emotional state when Christine gets a hold of a sex tape Dirk recorded on their trip to London and when I say gets a hold of it, Dirk gave it to her. Yikes. Isabelle goes into a tailspin, quite literally, backing her car into a pole and forward into an innocent Coke machine. Yeah, I prefer Pepsi too. Ok, this was supposed to be a devastating moment for Isabelle but I couldn’t help but chuckle…
I’m going to stop at this point as there’s a key plot point that propels the latter second act and into the third, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you already know what happens and if you haven’t, please don’t because it’s one of the most spoiler-heavy trailers I’ve ever come across to the point it almost ruins the experience.
What I can talk about are the performances: Rachel McAdams comes out the best in one of her first non-romantic comedy or drama tackling a role far darker and riskier and I think she’s nearly phenomenal even with a script with its fair share of laughable moments. Of course, I am a bit biased being a fan of hers, but I hope to see her take on similar roles, hell even in the action genre, as I think she’s a good enough actress to succeed.
Noomi Rapace. Um, I’m still unsure what to make of this Swedish beauty who stormed onto the scene with Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. In both films she was adequate but here some of her scenes didn’t quite land and her performance wasn’t the best and opposite McAdams, doesn’t have the same impact.
Of the other two supporting cast members, Karoline Herfurth and Paul Anderson serve their roles well with Herfurth really having an impact and her scenes, well at least one, with McAdams and those with Rapace toward the end, were pretty impressive. For Anderson’s part, it’s nothing special but he plays a drunk nicely I suppose… Actually, given the plot and some of the steamy scenes, he’s relegated to the sidelines in lieu of McAdams/Rapace and completely disappears in the end.
One thing you can say about Passion, there are obvious signs this is a Brian De Palma flick. De Palma utilizes many of his tricks used in past films like the background/foreground in focus shot, side-by-side scene at two different locations, lopsided angles giving an uneasiness for the audience, first shown really in the third act and, of course, nightmare or dream sequences. These are a set of trademarks he’s used in both independent and Hollywood movies (like Mission: Impossible) and although unusual, it’s really put to good use and one of the few technical highlights.
Where does the film flounder? Outside of Rapace, I place the blame squarely on De Palma who adapted the screenplay based on a 2010 French film, Crime d’amour (Love Crime) which co-starred Kristin Scott Thomas as Christine. The problem at hand with De Palma’s script is there are more than one scene that is downright ridiculous and another which is outright cheating for the audience where we see a character acting one way with nobody around only to find a twist that it was all a, well, act. This is one of my pet peeves in films and when filmmakers do this, it really misleads the audience and not in a clever way.
And it’s a shame that Passion mostly fails on one aspect. No, Rapace wasn’t very good but I could find her to be acceptable with a better screenplay. To be fair to De Palma, while this wasn’t a great movie, it’s far better than some of his later works including Redacted and the messy and dour Black Dahlia.
Passion has plenty of problems but I do think there’s just enough to give this a lukewarm or mild recommendation. It’s far from De Palma’s finest and one wonders at this point if his best days are behind him (not unlike Coppola) but I certainly hope he can return to form one day.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5
In something different, Passion is released with a bright red Blu-ray case. In terms of features, all we get are some Interviews (7:04; HD) with Brian De Palma, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Karoline Herfurth and the Theatrical Trailer (1:51; HD).
Previews – Diana, We Are What We Are
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Arriving on Blu-ray via Entertainment One, Passion shows off wonderfully with a 1080p high-definition transfer and a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio (shown in theaters in 1.85). I was pleasantly surprised with the deep and crispness to the picture with excellent detail levels, well defined edges, some moderate and natural film grain and splendidly vibrant colors.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t the most fulfilling loss aural experience but it’s not too bad. The track especially shows off with Pino Donaggio’s unusual score in the front and rear channels while the central speaker is relegated for dialogue which comes across crisp and clears throughout.
OVERALL – 2.25/5
Overall, Passion only has two things going against it, the screenplay and Noomi Rapace, but those are huge issues that are hard to overcome. That being said, I do think there’s enough here that it might be worth checking out especially if you are a fan of either Rachel McAdams or Brian De Palma (for his directing style). The Blu-ray released by Entertainment One lacks any substantive features while the audio/video transfers are both excellent.