Passenger n° 4: a (not) underrated review on Netflix


Initially, Joe Penna was a musician who enjoyed worldwide success on YouTube. Gradually touching short films and animations, budding filmmakers have implemented eye-catching inventions. For his first feature film, Arctic, he decided to explore the survival genre with an uncompromising proposition, relying on Mads Mikkelsen’s abandoned single appearance in the heart of the North Pole. Thankfully, this emerging voice has the opportunity to extend its first attempt, this time in space and on Netflix with Le Passager n°4.

In the near future, the Hyperion company is sending a spacecraft to Mars, with academics on board conducting important research for the planet’s potential colonization. For her final adventure in the cosmos, commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) thus begins with doctor Zoe Levanson (Anna Kendrick) and biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim). But unlucky for them, they find aboard a stowaway ship (Shamier Anderson), which could endanger the survival of the entire crew.

Since Gravity and its more or less successful ersatz (we’re thinking of Seul sur Mars), it can be very difficult to cope with survival in outer space. But as the director has approached the genre on Earth, it’s clear that The Passenger n°4 leaves with a pretty heavy weight on his shoulders, and a myriad of double-edged models.

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However, Joe Penna has a good idea of ​​marking in the first place his film’s kinship with the Arctic, assuming a certain comfort zone to take his space travels to less spectacular countries than usual. From the first minute, which remains with great attention to rocket liftoff, the feature film plunges us into a series of depressing stills, capturing the powerlessness of the body as much as it is in the hostile grip of the cosmos. the means of transportation that we thought were wrong.

Furthermore, we find filmmakers very comfortable with their devices. Its ultra-reduced cast immediately sparkles around the innocuous twists of a priori dialogue scenes (even if we regret that Toni Collette’s character is ultimately under-exploited). Even before her disruptive elements arrive, Penna strategically builds an oppressive and stealthy atmosphere.

To be honest, Passenger n° 4 very quickly brings out the clear integrity of its subtle approach, which on several occasions finds very clever staging ideas to immerse us in the concept. From the sequential shots that clearly mark the scenography of the closed setting, through the mundane noises inaudible to the viewer, the whole accurately conveys the loneliness and existential vertigo of the described expedition.

Therefore, the true performance of feature films consists in playing on the audience’s expectations of survival in outer space, so a simple tracking shot or heavy silence can make our hands sweat. But above all, Penna made the choice not to emit any ambiguity over the impromptu arrival of Michael Adams, the fourth passenger of the title whose presence on the ship was purely coincidental. The thing is, the entire crew will quickly run out of oxygen, and this sword of Damocles allows the filmmaker to gradually undo his alleged threat.

Of course, this change of direction offers the director the opportunity to quietly lead his film into an immigration metaphor, like a nesting doll that brings up broader questions around social determinism and equal opportunity within it. And this is where Le Passager n°4 tends toward its specificity, quickly ditching the traditional “man is a wolf to man” to present space as the highest boundary of privilege, such as the preservation of humankind. we take the place that should be theirs.

Unfortunately, to fully realize this idea, Joe Penna must avoid the overly simplistic dichotomy between his heroine’s idealism (Kendrick, very touching) and the selfishness of fellow travelers (Dae Kim, excellent at acting), which causes the second half of the footage to fall flat. It’s a shame that the filmmakers are clearly trying to expand on the intriguing Arctic approach, which demonstrates a refreshing belief in total humanism, while survival often delights in exploring the worst tendencies of the survival instinct.

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In fact, one can even see in the posts of Passengers n ° 4 a purely cinematic question: and if, for once, the characters don’t advance the story because of their stupidity (or rather their impulsivity)? We all blame fictional creatures kthe arena doesn’t act the way we want it to, but these irrational decisions often reflect the chaos that shapes humans.

Going against the grain, Joe Penna’s films are completely built on the reasoning of its heroes, on the logic that leads to the collective. The desire is sometimes quite interesting, especially considering the elegant staging of the filmmakers, who sail calmly on ships to accompany paradoxical static bodies, while they are launched on their greatest voyages.

In this way, the filmmaker maliciously invokes the stifling majesty, the elemental helplessness of the protagonist, or rather the absence of the element. However, this passivity has significant drawbacks, starting with the coldness it evokes. This desperate refusal never allowed Penna to touch the fragile beauty of the Arctic with her finger, especially since she saved the writer from making strong dramatic choices along the way. As a result, instead of suggesting multiple possibilities, the final act is frustrating given its obvious course, not to mention the final disruptive element it evokes, is arbitrary and disappointing.

However, despite its most obvious flaws, we won’t be able to get rid of its kink from the Passenger n° 4 , including in its most questionable of choices. Joe Penna still has a way of tweaking the essay for his first film, but he’s once again managed to test our hype. And it’s not bad anymore.