The Passenger (AKA Professione: Reporter): Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Michaelangelo Antonioni (dir) a jpoc movie review

Personally, I rate this film in my top three movies of all time. I like it very much indeed.

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My Rating

Ten out of ten.

I saw this film first in the late seventies at the North Staffs Poly Film Theatre. They had a season of Jack Nicholson films running which was a lot of fun.

My review

Jack Nicholson plays David Locke, a successful but jaded reporter in a mid life crisis. His mixed up mid Atlantic origins, failing marriage and dissatisfaction with his work come to a head in a small hotel in an obscure town in a war torn African country. The only other guest is the enigmatic business man Mr Robertson who confesses to having no family or friends only a list of appointments. The mid-life crisis fantasy turns into reality for Locke when Robertson dies from a heart attack. Locke switches passport photos, assumes the other man's identity and heads off to keep the apointments.

The list of apointments in the dead man's diary lead Locke on a journey across Europe. He is pursued by a team of assassins who, believing him to be the real Mr Robertson, want to kill the man selling guns to the rebels in their country. Also on the trail are the police together with his wife who is the only other person in the film to have realised the identity swap. Despite the state of her marriage, (she has taken a lover) she still cares about him and wants to warn about the danger that he faces.

No mid life crisis film would be complete without the younger woman with beautiful eyes and no past herself who falls for the leading man. Maria Schneider plays this role very well providing both an innocent acceptance and a sophisticated understanding of Locke's game.

Very few actors could have played the part of Locke as well as Nicholson. He brings an air of detachment to the part that fits in with the character's behaviour. He is taking part in another man's life but as a spectator.

As well as the storyline, the film is shot with the artistic poise and exquisite technique that I always enjoy when I see the work of director Antonioni. From the scenes in the African dessert to the final moments in a small sun baked Spanish town, the film is a joy to view. At the end of the film comes one single camera shot that is quite magical. The scene starts in Nicholson's hotel room and slowly homes in on the barred window. We zoom towards the window and then fly out through the bars into the square outside. Then slowly, the camera, now clearly on the other side of the bars pans around the square before returning to view the window from the outside. At the time, this was the longest and technically the most demanding camera shot ever attempted.