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2012 | 100 min | R | 1.85:1



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Movie appeal

Psychological thriller100%


Theatrical release date

 30 August, 2013

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Screenshots from Passion Blu-ray

Passion Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 1, 2013

Filmmaker Brian De Palma has always been an acquired taste, often seen storming through seedy material that plays to his strengths of seduction, suspense, and stylized cinematography. He’s fallen on hard times in recent years, with his last picture, 2007’s Iraq War lament “Redacted,” arguably the worst movie of his career. “Passion” won’t win over any new fans, but it’s an acceptable cleaning of the creative gutters for De Palma, who orchestrates his traditional serving of sin with aplomb, even if the material is somewhat lacking in cohesion and venom. At its finest when whipped into a frenzy of implausibility, “Passion” is a bubble gum thriller with plenty of snap, returning the helmer to a place of excitement that’s been missing from his work for far too long.

At a marketing firm in Germany, Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) is attempting to make a name for herself with bold ideas for the launch of a new smartphone, guided by boss Christine (Rachel McAdams). When Christine steals a commercial concept from Isabelle, the executive covers her violation with seduction, attempting to lure her subordinate into a sexual appetite that knows no bounds. Frustrated, Isabelle engages in an affair with Christine’s boyfriend, accountant Dirk (Paul Anderson), while relying on assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) for support, attempting to reclaim her creative work without disturbing the peace. Unfortunately, a rift is created when Christine’s plan for promotion are canceled by Isabelle’s self-preservation, leading to several acts of humiliation that drive the underling to madness and eventually to allegations of murder, leaving Isabelle professing her innocence as evidence is collected.

“Passion” is a remake of “Love Crime,” a 2010 French feature, the last of director Alain Corneau’s career. Taking little time to turn the material over for an English-language audience, De Palma embraces the film’s interest in paranoia and obsession, pitting Isabelle and Christine in a bizarre knife fight of passive-aggressive behavior, teasing out their itchy relationship with flashes of friendship, competition, and lesbianism. It’s a fantasyland the moviemaker favors, returning to a claustrophobic space where dreams and reality intersect, leaving viewers to wonder what exactly is real about the insanity carefully detailed onscreen. It’s a puzzle that’s not always interesting to solve, and the execution is a little sloppy at times, suggesting scenes dedicated to connecting the dots with more fervor were cut for time, rendering a few interpersonal points hazy in the overall depiction of harassment.

It takes about an hour for De Palma to warm up, exploring the initial stages of Christine and Isabelle’s discord with restraint, permitting a straightforward understanding of corporate jockeying and lustful intentions before the material takes a sharp turn into disorientation. Christine is a powerful character, commanding in the office and dominant in the bedroom, using masks and sex toys with Dirk, who enjoys more traditional acts of copulation with Isabelle. Christine is ambitious, eager to abandon Germany and return to New York, taking credit for Isabelle’s successful ideas to inspire a promotion, using skills of seduction and proclamations of love to disarm her employee. Isabelle is depicted as submissive, but growing more confident by the day, fearful of Christine’s power but unwilling to permit her access to a brighter future. She’s no saint, openly carrying on with Dirk, clouding the characterization as De Palma weaves a cat’s cradle with barbed wire, giving everyone in the cast a motive for murder.

The torment escalates for Isabelle as Catherine executes a few acts of revenge, playing psychological hardball before she’s silenced for good. Once Isabelle begins to pop pills to suppress her demons, De Palma flips on the stylistics, with noir lighting, Dutch angles, and split-screen awakened to take command of the feature, returning the helmer to visual movement he hasn’t worked out in years. To watch “Passion” go baroque is wildly entertaining, allowing Rapace and McAdams time to enjoy a screen freak-out as suspense mounts and accusations of murder are introduced. It’s a mind game, leaving reality a pipe dream as details are ignored in the quest for panic, with bumbling cops sure to cause great distress to any viewer who demands a Tupperware seal to their suspense. De Palma’s in no mood to explore the facts of the case, merely interested in its gamesmanship and visual potential.

I wouldn’t recommend “Passion” to anyone unfamiliar with De Palma’s work, and even die-hard fans are sure to identify the helmer’s rustiness with this creaky display of salacious details. However, there’s undeniable energy to the work, and its screwball execution cements the effort as a guilty pleasure. After the dreary, amateurish antics of “Redacted,” to have De Palma back in the thick of mental illness is something to celebrate.

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth
Director: Brian De Palma

» See full cast & crew

Passion, Forum Discussions

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The Passion or The Last Temptation 150 Feb 26, 2012
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