Film Review: Passengers

She sees dead people, maybe. Stealth movie starring Anne Hathaway as the world's worst trauma counselor slipped into a few theatres without warning. Now you've been warned.

Now that M. Night Shyamalan's one-trick pony of a career has gotten benighted, other directors have been helpfully filing the niche for dull supernatural movies with surprise endings. The twist in director Rodrigo Garcia's Passengers does explain some of the film's implausibility and ludicrous behavior, but doesn't excuse it.

It's also difficult to excuse the presence of rising star Anne Hathaway, other than that she wanted a more-or-less solo starring vehicle after clicking in major movies with major co-stars (The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep, Get Smart with Steve Carell) or a major director (Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married). Her co-star here is a fine actor (Patrick Wilson, of Lakeview Terrace and the upcoming Watchmen), but it's not a parity situation like Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock or Richard Gere-Diane Lane; had Passengers succeeded, it would have been thought of as "an Anne Hathaway movie."

It still may be, but not in a good way. Hathaway plays Claire Summers, a vaguely defined therapist or psychiatric social worker. After a commercial jetliner crashes while attempting to land—the locale being Anycity USA until the British Columbia Sugar Refinery sign looms up in one background—Claire gets sent by her boss (Andre Braugher) to offer counseling to the handful of survivors. One of them, dashing young stockbroker Eric Clark, insists on one-on-one treatment…in his apartment. Sure, why not? How's Friday at five sound?

That lovely young Claire would make an appointment with a handsome young patient at his home at TGIF happy hour is just one in a series of ridiculous actions that mark her as the world's worst therapist. Amateurish and unprofessional, she's a ninny, basically, and outside of broad comedy, that's frustrating to watch. You can maybe belabor a justification for her out of the finale's big reveal, though the actions of a creepily helpful neighbor (Dianne Wiest), a bitter crash survivor (Clea DuVall) and a sinister airline executive (David Morse) still make no sense even after the twist ending.

Shot gloomily but not particularly skillfully by cable-TV helmer Garcia ("Carnivàle," "Big Love"), with a first-time feature script by telefilm hack Ronnie Christensen (Chameleon 3: Dark Angel), Passengers may well have gone into the sausage grinder as a solid movie before coming out like this extrusion. Either way, this limited release, unscreened for critics and essentially unadvertised, is sub-Shyamalanian