Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth, Paul Anderson, Rainer Bock, Benjamin Sadler, Michael Rotschopf, Max Urlacher, Dominic Raacke, Trystan W. Putter
Written by: Brian De Palma, based on a screenplay by Alain Corneau, Natalie Carter
Directed by: Brian De Palma
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some violence
Running Time: 102
Date: 08/30/2013

Passion (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Office Chase

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of the most brutally powerful of all American directors, Brian De Palma is also one of the most despised. And, as with his last several movies, Passion is bound to be misunderstood and dismissed. Yet for the more adventurous and open-minded moviegoers, his intense style and charged atmosphere, as well as old-fashioned suspense, will be enough to entertain.

A high-level advertising executive, Christine Stanford (Rachel McAdams), cultivates a close relationship with her assistant, Isabelle James (Noomi Rapace), but when Isabelle comes up with a great idea for an ad campaign, Christine blatantly steals and takes credit for it. However, Isabelle is not entirely innocent: she's secretly sleeping with Christine's boyfriend (Paul Anderson). As tension in the workplace increases, so does the subtle one-upsmanship between the women. It grows to public humiliation and blackmail, and then, eventually, murder. Is Isabelle responsible, or are there even more sinister forces at work?

Remaking a 2010 French movie that starred Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas, and thereby securing European funding, De Palma takes a relatively thin, and somewhat nonsensical story, and gives it everything he has. He uses heavy blues, dark shadowy slashes, split-screen, nightmares, and sudden shocks, all for maximum effect. Much like Hitchcock and Polanski -- to whom he is often, unfavorably compared -- this veteran filmmaker seemingly has a plan for every shot. Nothing feels arbitrary or uncertain. Though it doesn't quite rank with De Palma's best, it's far better than the ordinary.

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