Genre: Dark thriller/drama
Premise: Microscopic proteins/aliens ride human beings as passengers for their own personal enjoyment.
About: Based off a 1969 Robert Silverberg short story that won a Nebula Award, this project was being circled pretty heavily by Fincher around the turn of the century. Since then, it’s been pretty much forgotten. I believe it’s currently being developed by Focus Features.
Writer: G.J. Pruss
This is not going to be a traditional review because this was not a traditional script. In fact, I’d probably call this the most original script I’ve ever read. Some of you may have heard of it before. It’s based on a short story and made some headlines when Fincher was attached back in 2000. But when you’re David Fincher and have the pick of the litter of every weird odd dark script on the market, you toy with a lot of projects. And it looks like this one got toyed with. Then thrown out. Well I’m here to throw it back in.
The first thing you notice about Passengers is that it’s written in the first person. Yes, the script is written in the first person. “I walk over to the store.” “I have sex with the beautiful woman.” It’s so weird and jarring at first that you can’t help but be pulled in. You feel like you’re right there with this guy – Charles – and all of a sudden you’re wondering why every movie isn’t written this way. It seems so real. So immediate. How the hell they plan to transfer this onto the screen I have no idea. I thought maybe they tell it from a first-person perspective, like a video game, but that would be too bizarre and too hard to pull off. Then again, why not? It would create the same jarring shock I had when I picked this up.
So Charles spends most of his life in a blur. He’s an alcoholic. Blacks out all the time. Finds himself in his bed, not remembering anything about the previous night’s events. He stumbles into his high-paying job. His bosses are concerned. They know he’s an alcoholic. They know it’s starting to affect his work. He promises them it isn’t. — I’m thinking “Okay, a guy with a really bad alcohol problem. We haven’t had a good one of those in years.”
But that isn’t Passengers. No, this movie is way more fucked than that. Charles goes home, finds an old strawberry rotting on the floor, covered by ants. Picks it up. About to throw it away….then realizes. It’s not a strawberry. It’s a woman’s finger. He freaks out. What’s going on? Figures it was something that happened in one of his drunken nights but for the life of him can’t figure out what or why. He puts it on ice and throws it in the freezer.
He heads to the doctor. Doesn’t like doctors. Asks him what’s wrong with him. The doctor acts strange. Starts asking him weird questions. Has this been going on a long time? How long does he black out for? What does he remember? This appears to be much worse than an alcohol problem. Something else is causing the blackouts.
Charles must go to the underground for answers. People don’t sell medicine for this kind of thing on the streets yet because that would imply there was a problem. Whatever’s happening, it’s being covered up. What is happening? The unthinkable. People are being “ridden” – their bodies used as amusement park rides by…who? Aliens? Ghosts? Collective bacteria so small we can’t yet recognize it? Whatever it is, it’s intelligent, and it takes control of us. We don’t remember anything when it happens. Sometimes we end up in strange people’s houses with no memory of how we got here. Other times it kills us. To the rest of the world it’s passed off as disease or being drunk or being high or depression. But really it’s this entity, taking over our bodies for its own pleasure.
I don’t think there’s any question that the “Passengers” are meant to be our own individual demons. Whether they be alcohol or drugs or anything that gets you high. The passengers tend to take you over at night, when you’re most susceptible, the rides last 1-3 days (suspiciously the same amount of time as your average alcohol/drug binge). A lot of the people being “ridden” have bloody noses (cocaine). But even if you want to ignore that and take Passengers literally, it still works because trying to figure out who or what the passengers are is fun.
There’s so much to enjoy here. And no, the script isn’t perfect. The end drags on a little too long but it’s such a trippy “ride” you don’t care. This is a great fucking script. It had me racing through every page to the point where I felt ridden. I don’t know who the hell is waiting to make this, but they need to make it now. It breaks into my Top 25 at #14.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: Pruss took a big chance by writing this in the first person. But it wasn’t just to be different and hip. He had a purpose. We felt like we were Charles, which made all of our experiences more personal. It completely worked. My point being, if you’re going to break rules, especially big ones, make sure there’s a valid purpose behind it.