For decades, Michelangelo Antonio's existential drama has been nearly impossible to track down, but thanks to Sony Pictures Classics, THE PASSENGER finally gets the exposure that it deserves (making this event even more noteworthy is the fact that the re-released version contains Antonioni's preferred 126-minute cut). In an impressively low-key performance, Jack Nicholson plays David Locke, a reporter who is researching a story in the North African desert. But when he discovers the dead body of a mysterious man he had just recently befriended, a strange compulsion overtakes him. Passing off the dead man as himself, Locke assumes the identity of Martin Knight and travels to Barcelona on a dangerous mission. Once there, he finds himself falling for a beautiful girl (Maria Schneider) as he drifts further and further away from the man he once was. It isn't long before he realizes just how much danger he is in, but at that point, it might be too late to turn back.
Antonio's gorgeous, haunting film incorporates elements of a traditional Hollywood thriller, only to leave them behind in search of something deeper. The result is an unsettling and daring work that casts a truly hypnotic spell. Nicholson's surprisingly downplayed performance is perfect for the role, as is Schneider's timid, beautiful presence. Featuring one of the most unforgettable closing shots in movie history, THE PASSENGER is a must-see for anyone with a serious interest in film history.
This film screened as part of Lincoln Center's 2005 New York Film Festival.
Academy Awards Honorary Awards 1994 Michelangelo Antonioni Italian Director/Screenwriter