The Reel Review
Randy, a timid young man traumatized by a childhood accident, is forced to confront his passive, directionless life after a co-worker at a fast-food restaurant goes on a killing rampage, taking Randy hostage and forcing him to literally confront his past. Johnny Berchtold and Kyle Gallner star in this pulse-pounding crime drama.
At its heart, The Passenger is about how two very different personalities each deal with trauma – one withdrawing and becoming frustratingly passive, the other becoming a terrifying, unpredictable and violent time bomb of rage. Both lead actors do an exceptional job capturing the wide emotional spectrum of PTSD. The bloody killing spree in the first 30 minutes of the film is intense and disturbing – not for the squeamish.
Working from a screenplay from Jack Stanley (Lou) that cleverly presents additional insight into the surprising ways others are affected by the protagonist’s trauma, director Carter Smith keeps the pacing of his low budget thriller taut, intense and unpredictable. The story goes down a couple of far-fetched paths, but even so, a dim, muted color palate and an ominous score helps capture the claustrophobic effects of trauma, culminating in an explosive, unpredictable finalé.
• Director Carter Smith was a fashion photographer before becoming a movie director. His film credits include 2022’s Swallowed and the 2008 body horror/thriller The Ruins.
• Johnny Berchtold stars with Rob Lowe in the 2023 Netflix film Dog Gone, about a father and son who reconnect while searching for their lost dog on the Appalachian Trail.