Has anyone ever had a disaster-free road trip? Definitely not in the movies. In the movies, simply leaving your home is an invitation for disaster. In grand cinematic fashion, The Passenger is a film that showcases a road trip gone horribly wrong. Directed by Raul Cerezo and Fernando Gonzales Gomez, it’s a film that doesn’t necessarily introduce much in the way of new story ideas, but it delivers a story that audiences can embrace and characters that we (eventually) get behind and root for.
The Passenger embraces the often used set up of a group of strangers bound together, facing an external and malevolent force. Here, we have a group of travelers who all find themselves in the same rideshare, traveling to a small town in the Spanish countryside. Leading the group is Blasco (Ramiro Blas), a confident and slightly out of touch middle-aged man and former bull fighter. His van, Nessie, is the love of his life, and he relies on his slightly sexist charms to help him to coast through life. He is first joined by Mariela (Cecilia Suarez), a religious woman who is on her way to visit her estranged father. They then pick up Lidia (Cristina Alcazar) and Marta (Paula Gallego), a mother and daughter duo going to meet Lidia’s ex and pass Marta off to spend some time with her father.
Immediately, there is tension within the group. The women are turned off by Blasco’s sexist machismo, Lidia and Marta have the typical mother-daughter friction and Blasco can’t understand why everyone is so uptight. It makes for some interesting character discourse early on in the film. So far, we’re just on a road trip with a bunch of strangers, and honestly, they’re entertaining enough that we wouldn’t mind spending the runtime of the film just hanging out and watching them butt heads.
The plot thickens when Blasco becomes distracted and collides with a strange woman who charges into the middle of the deserted road. The group argues over how to handle the matter and after a few tense moments the woman is loaded into the back of the van and Blasco agrees to drive her to the nearest hospital. It quickly becomes apparent (to us anyway) that the stranger is suffering from more than injuries sustained in a car accident. She is carrying a strange something. An unidentified being has latched itself on to her and has now crossed paths with our unsuspecting group of travelers.
Though she initially appears to be very injured and immobile, she soon regains her strength (thanks to the strange something inside her) and begins attacking the other travelers. As their situation becomes more obviously dire, the group reacts with exactly the lack of resourcefulness that one would expect. Screaming, yelling and freakouts are all part of the story as they struggle to deal with a situation that is both unexpected and unknown. They are in the middle of nowhere, facing down beings that are not of this world and defy all reason and understanding.
Naturally, some members of our party are dispatched and the core focus of the story becomes the bond between Blasco and Marta. The two form an unlikely alliance in the face of danger and do everything that they can to stay together and keep each other unharmed. For Marta, Blasco takes the place of an absent father and offers protection and a sense of calm. For Blasco, Marta is a reason to keep moving and to stay alive at all costs.
The film does a great job at conveying the relationship that forms between the two characters and making it the heart of the story. The alien stuff is fun and the film incorporates some decent effects, but the connection between the characters is where it really stands out. They make it real and give the film a sense of urgency. That feeling that something precious could be lost if they make the wrong move.
But in keeping with the tone set forth in the early part of the film, survival is not easy. They make mistakes, make stupid decisions and find themselves in increasingly difficult and increasingly ridiculous circumstances as they continue their journey.
The Passenger doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in terms of story, but what it does offer, it does well. The characters are believable (in both their worst moments and their best) and definitely have us rooting for them as they go up against bigger and more intense otherworldly creatures. It’s a fun story anchored by a wonderful connection between our two leads.
Movie Score: 3.5/5