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9. The Passenger; movie review

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Title : 9. The Passenger; movie review
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Cert 15
121 mins
BBFC advice: Contains scene of real execution

Has anyone ever mastered the cross between a smirk and a scowl better than Jack Nicholson?
It really doesn't matter which of his movies I watch, I always half-expect him to show us his gnashers and whisper: "Here's Johnny."
Of course, The Passenger is not as famous as The Shining or One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest but it still has a place in a catalogue of work which has spanned five decades.
Nicholson retired from acting in 2010 and it has been speculated that memory loss has been a key factor.
Therefore, it is worth reminding ourselves of one of the greatest examples of screen presence in cinema history.
During Michelangelo Antonioni's film, Nicholson plays journalist David Locke who finds himself at a story's dead end in a bleak desert hotel in Chad.
While there he comes across the mysterious Mr Robertson (Charles Mulvehill) with whom he shares a drink before finding him dead of a heart attack.
What was Robertson doing in the desert and is he the key to Locke's story?
The latter decides to try to answer these questions by swapping identities with a dead man.
What he goes on to discover could have made headlines but his daring move also opens other opportunities.
Meanwhile, his wife (Jenny Runacre) and friend (Ian Hendry) refuse to believe he is dead and go in pursuit so he seeks help from a young tourist (Maria Schneider).
The Passenger's backdrop is so hot and sweaty I could feel beads down the back of my neck even though I watched it in January.
And Nicholson is splendidly enigmatic as Locke never entirely reveals to those around him the purpose of his actions which take him across Africa and Europe.
Indeed, The Passenger isn't a straightforward film, demanding attention from its viewer to keep up with plot nuances despite being rather slow in parts.
It also has a rather unsatisfying finale.
Nevertheless, an opportunity to see Nicholson in his prime is always worth taking and Antonioni brings out the best in him.

Reasons to watch: Jack Nicholson at his peak
Reasons to avoid: Slow to get going

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: Bare bums
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Did you know? In newly independent Chad, Muslim dissatisfaction with its first president, Ngarta Tombalbaye – a Christian southerner – developed into a guerrilla war.  This, combined with a severe drought, undermined his rule.  In 1975 he was murdered in a coup. 

The final word - Michelangelo Antonioni: "In The Passenger I have not tampered with reality. I looked at it with the same eye with which the hero, a reporter, looks at the events he is reporting on. Objectivity is one of the themes of the film. If you look closely, there are two documentaries in the film, Locke’s documentary on Africa and mine on him."

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