MRR Review: "Passion"

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The rivalry between the manipulative boss of an advertising agency and her talented protégée escalates from stealing credit to public humiliation to murder.
2.5

MRR Review: "Passion"

Rating: R (sexual content, language, and some violence)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2013
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery

Christine (Rachel McAdams) is a high-powered advertising executive living in Berlin who loves a challenge. She has what at first seems like a good working relationship with new hire Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), but all is not what it initially seems. When Isabelle comes up with a provocative and daring campaign for a big client, Christine pitches the idea and takes credit for it, which may lead to her getting a big promotion to the New York office. When Isabelle hears about this backstabbing, she plots a course for revenge, which includes exposing Christine as a liar for claiming her idea.

After Christine is humiliated by her bosses and passed up for the New York promotion, she declares all-out war on Isabelle and her attentive, loyal assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth). This begins a series of mind games and further backstabbing between the two women, who flirt with each other constantly throughout the proceedings. Their chemistry is off the charts, but neither seems to want to give in to the other romantically because they are still trying to get each other fired at work. Their intense attraction is only trumped by their intense dislike of one another, which is so great that Isabelle embarks on an affair with Christine's boyfriend to learn her weaknesses for future use.

The game the two ladies are playing takes an awful twist when Christine is murdered in cold blood. Though Isabelle seems the most likely suspect considering their adversarial relationship, it turns out that a few others would have benefitted from her demise as well. The film shifts into a classic whodunit tale while still retaining the visual beauty and stunning use of color that marks almost every scene in this wild, taut thriller.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, director Brian De Palma has been known for telling basic stories that have multiple twists to keep the audience guessing. He is also known for a lush visual style that makes great use of color to clue the audience into the moods of the characters. He has employed fancy camerawork, including specially colored lenses, drop shots, and other techniques that have become the hallmark of his films. Fans of De Palma can rejoice because they can see all these trademarks in "Passion." The film almost feels like a love letter from the director to his fans, although one doesn't have to be a fan of his past work to enjoy this movie. It is a very basic story about attraction, power, and betrayal, but the plot isn't the main point of the film. The visual flares are the primary focus of the story; they will capture the audience's imagination and won't let go. The story is secondary until the very end when the final twist jolts viewers out of their visual reverie with its shocking reveal.

McAdams is almost unrecognizable as Christine in this film but not because the actress is wearing prosthetics or anything else to change her looks. McAdams looks much like she always does but is unrecognizable because of the sheer nastiness of her manipulative character. She has never played anyone so gleefully evil before, instead opting to star in films like "The Notebook" or "The Vow," where she plays the romantic lead. Sure, she played the head bad girl in "Mean Girls" several years back, but that was a comedy, and her character was as funny as she was mean. In "Passion," Christine is willing to get downright dirty in her pursuit of power and pleasure, which ultimately leads to her demise. McAdams stretches her acting muscles to embody the treachery of the character fully, so much so that the audience really isn't all that shocked when she is murdered.

The film is based on "Love Crimes," which tragically became the final film in French director Alain Corneau's illustrious career. It has been adapted to fit De Palma's lush style, which is a return to glory for the storied director after his last film, "Redacted" abandoned his trademark look in favor of a documentary style. Though this film is an adaptation, it is so true to De Palma's wheelhouse that it looks as though "Love Crimes" was an adaptation of "Passion," instead of the other way around. That the director could take a film and make it his own, while not missing a beat at the age of 72, is a testament to his longevity and gives his fans hope that there are still a lot of stories left for De Palma to tell.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5