“I’m warning you, it’s not a pretty sight”, a man tells ballsy detective Anaïs Châtelet as they approach a train station maintenance pit. He’s not wrong.
Because the crime scene she’s about to be shown to is a little out of the ordinary. It’s not everyday you see a bull’s head sat atop a naked man’s dead body, mirroring the image of the ancient mythological Minotaur, after all. It’s quite the opening statement for The Passengers:
This isn’t your average crime, and this isn’t your average crime thriller.
And though there are moments of both gorgeous and horrifying imagery dotted throughout the first episode of the French procedural show, balancing between realism and the fantastical, its opener is actually fairly straight-forward.
With a ritualistic murderer inspired by Greek mythology on the loose, it’s Anaïs’ (Raphaëlle Agogué) job to piece together the few clues left behind to discover the culprit. And burly amnesiac (Vincent Deniard), who’s just been admitted into Mathias Freire’s (Jean-Hugues Anglade) asylum covered in blood, is her number one suspect. Psychiatrist Mathias however has his doctorly duties and the best interests of his patient to attend to, setting him and Anaïs’ up for conflict. But it’s far subtler than you might imagine. There’s some squabbling amongst the pair, but also a mutual respect and understanding, the boundaries of which each of them tests early in their partnership. It’s an interesting dynamic, allowing for a game of cat and mouse between the duo, with the murder in the middle of it all.
The obvious comparison to be made is with True Detective (so I’ll go right ahead and compare away), but that’s not bad company to be in at all. And it does, at times, meet the high standards of the HBO classic. Structurally and thematically the similarities are there. The uneasy relationship between Anaïs and Mathias echoes that of Rust and Marty’s (McConaughey and Harrelson). Then there’s that same methodical, (almost too) patient pacing across both shows. Yet, The Passenger has its own sensibilities, and its own edge, which in tandem with the French setting allows for any likenesses to fade into the background, and for the merits of its solid performances, its beautiful cinematography, and its dark mystery to come to the fore. And what a tantalising mystery it is.
Rating (out of 5):
The Passenger launches on Walter Presents on December 2nd.