The Passenger (2023) Review – a low-budget thriller that exceeds all expectations

By Adam Lock
Published: August 10, 2023 (Last updated: December 18, 2023)
2023 MGM+ movie The Passenger Review


The Passenger does contain brief moments of violence and gore, but it would be unfair to call this a horror flick. Instead, viewers are treated to a surprisingly impressive psychological thriller featuring stand-out performances from leads Kyle Gallner and Johnny Berchtold.

Here is our review of the 2023 MGM+ movie The Passenger, which does not contain significant spoilers.

The Passenger is a low-budget horror movie to be released by Blumhouse Productions, the hugely successful production company behind lucrative horror franchises such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and The Purge.

This MGM+ original film from director Carter Smith (The Ruins) and writer Jack Stanley (Lou) may have been advertised as a horror movie, but it only includes very brief moments of violence, concentrating instead on the psychology of our lead character as he is forced to atone for his past mistakes.

The Passenger (2023) Review and Plot Summary

The lead character in question is Randy Bradley (Johnny Berchtold), a shy 21-year-old outcast who works at the local burger joint. He lets the adults in his life control his every move, and his youthful coworkers walk all over him.

This is made painfully clear when fast food employee Chris, your stereotypical bully, forces Randy to eat a stale, out-of-date burger.

This minor incident triggers something deep and profound inside coworker Benson (Smile star Kyle Gallner), who decides to help Randy better his pathetic life after he embarks on a gory and violent rampage in the store.

Benson practically takes Randy hostage at this point, bundling him into his car as the unlikely duo road trip across a desolate landscape with no set plan in mind. The psychotic killer pressures Randy into confronting his own murky past in the hopes that he can bring out the real hero inside of him.

This involves Randy facing his past head-on as some twisted form of exposure therapy. Randy and Benson meander through the rest of the film, interacting with important people from their pasts in search of meaning and purpose in their own dreary lives.

Exploring themes of neglected childhood trauma in the process.

Of course, Benson is an unpredictable guide on this journey and the very definition of a loose cannon who looks set to flip at any given moment. The filmmakers milk this character trait to the max, building unease in the final third as Benson’s confidence starts to wane.

But can Randy find the courage to save himself from this unhinged killer after all?

Is The Passenger (2023) good or bad?

The Passenger is a competently crafted, small-scale movie that makes the most of its low-budget and minimalist plot structure. The characters are well-written, and the acting from our two leads, Berchtold and Gallner, is surprisingly effective.

Their authenticity and onscreen chemistry really elevate the script and the film’s underlying messages. There is nothing amateurish about this project whatsoever, although on paper, it may have seemed that way, what with the infamous track record of low-budget horror films.

The Passenger isn’t without its faults, though. After the exciting opener, the movie loses its way somewhat in the poorly paced middle section, struggling to adjust to its new road movie setting. Yet, if you stick with this film to the very end, you will be rewarded with a tense finale and some genuinely emotional character development.

Is The Passenger (2023) worth watching?

Available to stream now on MGM+ or to rent online, The Passenger is a hard one to recommend to film fans when there is so much choice out there. But I think it is important to support these kinds of small-budget movies that attempt to transcend the limitations of their genre and scope in the pursuit of greater meaning.

What did you think of the 2023 MGM+ movie The Passenger (2023)? Comment below.

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