Passion

There’s always a worry that when an older director returns behind the camera that the magic is gone. That they are no longer the craftsman they used to be, and that the world has gotten away from them. It is then with a great sigh of relief we report that Brian De Palma still has it, and Passion is a slick and nasty little thriller.

The Players

  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Screenwriter: Brian De Palma, Natalie Carter (based on, additional Dialogue), Alain Corneau (based on his film ‘Love Crimes’)
  • Cast: Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Karoline Herfurth
  • Cinematography by: José Luis Alcaine
  • Original Music by: Pino Donaggio

The Plot:

Isabelle James (Rapace) creates a new ad campaign that goes over like gangbusters, but it’s stolen by her superior Christine Standford (McAdams). Christine rationalizes it as a learning experience as she wants to use its success to get out of Germany and in an office in New York. But when the customer is a little nervous about the ad, Isabelle spreads it virally, and finally gets the credit she deserves. But Christine isn’t going to take this sitting down, and the two engage in a battle of (mostly) wits to see who can spin this into success. But eventually one of them is murdered.

The Good:

  • De Palma: The director’s last two efforts were Redacted and The Black Dahlia, and while both have their positives, it’s hard to say they don’t show someone out of their prime, or someone working with material that got the better of them. Whereas this is De Palma in his wheelhouse. Though he may not have all the tools at his disposal as this is a lower budget than many of his previous thrillers, he uses the tools to make them count, and stages a number of great set piece sequences, including one involving someone being murdered while another character is watching a ballet.
  • McAdams: Rachel McAdams is one of the weirdest movie stars as she had the keys to the kingdom after a number of hit films, but never seemed to pursue being the next Julia Roberts. It’s hard to tell if she decided against that, or it’s that roles for female leads have been lacking over the last couple years. Regardless, here is a chance for her to have fun, and vamp and smoke and get drunk, and she seems to be having a ball playing her very manipulative character.
  • Rapace: Noomi Rapace hasn’t exactly settled into stardom yet, but this is one of the best performances she’s ever given. It’s hard to tell if it’s because De Palma used her well, or if it’s because other directors haven’t used her at all, but she’s definitely the best she’s ever been in English in this film.
  • The Nods: If you’re a De Palma fan, you’ll enjoy his nods to himself, and to Alfred Hitchcock in the movie. He definitely approaches these films with a knowing eye, and a sense of humor. Of course, there’s nothing as familiar as his callbacks to Psycho (like in Phantom of the Paradise or Dressed to Kill), the film features more deep cut-type references.

The So-So:

Budget: Though I’d love to see De Palma crank a movie like this out once a year until he’s unable to, you can tell that he’s also working within limited means. He chooses when he wants to go big, but to make the sort of film De Palma wants to it requires precision, and when you have limited shooting days, and so much money, you can only do so much with extended takes and elaborate camera moves. You can only have so much choreography. And it shows. It’s still a solid piece of work, but it would be great to see the same film with another month to shoot, or an additional two months. Then it might be a masterpiece.

Overall:

The Maestro is back! For those who’ve loved his thrillers like Sisters, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Body Double, etc. this is a delight. And though it’s disappointing that a great piece of film like this only gets a limited release and is mostly avaiable through VOD, it’s one of the best films of the year.

Rating:

9.3/10

Passion will be in theaters August 30, but is already available on demand, and on many VOD systems now.

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Trailer: