‘The Passenger’ (2023) Summary & Review: Psychological Thriller About Two Victims Of Violence

The Passenger by Carter Smith delves into the depths of human psychology and confronts the subject of violence. Through the central characters of the film, Randy and Benson, the film examines contrasting human responses to violence. Benson’s psychopathic tendencies lead him to believe in using violence as a means of power, while Randy’s ability to endure insults makes him aim to establish peace. Despite their different approaches, both characters inadvertently contribute to the escalation of violence in the world. The Passenger serves as a mirror to the complexities of human behavior and the various ways people react to violence. By presenting these two extreme possibilities, it prompts viewers to reflect on their own responses to conflict and the implications of such actions.


Spoilers Ahead

The Passenger commenced with a haunting sequence in which a little child appeared utterly terrified while looking at his teacher, who was bleeding from the eye. The scene transitioned to the present, portraying the child as a 21-year-old named Randy Bradley, now employed at a restaurant. Randy’s daily life was far from interesting; he worked alongside bullying colleagues who seemed more interested in tormenting him than focusing on their own tasks. One day, a glimmer of hope shone through as the restaurant owner recognized Randy’s diligent work and offered him a better job opportunity.


Randy was happy, and this sudden shift in his liffe gave him hope; however, his fate took a tragic twist when his colleague, Chris, intensified his bullying, going so far as to force Randy into having a rotten burger against his will. Amidst this turmoil, Benson, who was cleaning the dining room, tried to intervene and prevent Chris from further harassing Randy. However, Chris brushed Benson off and ordered him to mind his own business, an action that visibly angered Benson. Leaving the restaurant briefly, Benson returned, brandishing a rifle in his hand. To Randy’s immense shock, Benson unexpectedly fired the weapon, killing Chris, Chris’s girlfriend, and even the restaurant owner. In a chilling turn of events, Benson’s attention then turned to Randy. Though he backed off from fatally shooting Randy, Benson compelled him to assist in moving the dead bodies and covering up the scene. Overwhelmed by shock and fear, Randy complied with Benson’s demand, recognizing that disobedience could result in his own death.

Randy found himself pondering Benson’s character and potential. It soon became evident that Benson was no ordinary individual; he revealed a disturbing trait, that of being a genuine psychopath. This unsettling revelation shed light on Benson’s intolerance for bullying and misconduct. Unlike Randy, who had endured his fair share of mistreatment and opted for a passive approach to secure some semblance of peace, Benson adopted a radically different perspective. He believed that combating violence with violence could hold the key to resolution, an outlook that starkly contrasted with Randy’s. As their conversation delved deeper, Benson’s empathy for Randy grew more apparent. This newfound connection prompted Benson to inquire about Randy’s romantic history, specifically his past. Subsequently, Randy mustered the courage to share a deeply ingrained childhood memory, one that had haunted him for years. He talked about a past mistake in his life when, as a little child, he inadvertently injured his teacher’s eye in a fit of rage. He admitted that his teacher, Ms. Beard’s yelling at him made him angry, driving him to commit such an act. This traumatic event left Randy riddled with guilt and regret, but Benson comforted him and took him to his old school to confront Ms. Beard about this issue. In that school, Benson and Randy managed to get the address of Ms. Beard, and they located her. Despite the passage of time and the eye patch she now wore, Ms. Beard instantly recognized Randy.


Miss Beard hadn’t anticipated that her meeting with her former student, Randy, would escalate into a terrifying situation. Randy’s sole intention was to speak with Beard and extend an apology for his past behavior, seeking closure in his life. Similarly, Benson’s initial intent was to leave these two to talk to each other without causing harm to Beard. However, events took a dramatic turn when Beard discovered Benson’s true identity as a stone-cold murderer who had Randy hostage. Though Benson held them captive, he refrained from killing Randy or Beard, opting to lead them to a nearby restaurant to have his final meal.

As the tension grew, Randy found the courage to break free from the terrorizing situation Benson had set up. He cleverly managed to grab Beard’s phone and dial 911 from the restroom of the restaurant. With the police on their way, Benson’s anger and sense of betrayal fueled his desperation. In his attempt to kill Miss Beard, he inadvertently shot Randy. It was evident that Benson had never intended to harm Randy, as he perceived them both as victims of these unfortunate incidents, regardless of their differing perspectives on them. In a pivotal moment, Benson experienced a revelation. He recognized that it was time for him to step back and allow Randy to live a life free from the chaos, one that he rightfully deserved. As the police drew nearer, Benson confronted them, resulting in officers opening fire on him. Benson was shot to death, while Randy and Miss Beard were free and finally able to get back to their normal lives.


The Passenger delves into the psyche of a character, Benson, who embodies the nature of both a psychopath and a victim. This complex interplay of his personality creates a riveting narrative that explores the divergent responses to violence. Simultaneously, the film examines the contrasting outlooks of the two central characters, Randy and Benson, as they grapple with their conflicting experiences and personalities. With Kyle Gallner portraying Benson and Johnny Berchtold portraying Randy, their exceptional performances breathe life into these characters’ intricacies.

Benson’s character is a fascinating study of the intersection of aggression and vulnerability. Despite exhibiting psychopathic tendencies, he had a strong moral grounding, exemplified by his intolerance towards bullies and his readiness to employ violence. However, beneath this exterior lies a history of violence inflicted upon him, which has deeply traumatized his psyche. This trauma has given birth to his psychopathic traits, transforming him into a perpetrator. This intriguing character conflict provides a unique lens through which the audience witnesses the cycle of violence perpetrated by one who has suffered its effects firsthand.


In contrast, Randy embodies a more subdued and repressed demeanor. Having endured mistreatment throughout his life, he has chosen a path of tolerance and non-confrontation to achieve peace. This contrast between Benson and Randy is striking, portraying the vastly different ways individuals respond to violence. While Benson internalizes his pain and projects it outward, Randy internalizes his pain to maintain a sense of equilibrium.

The Passenger expertly showcases these divergent personalities while maintaining a sense of eeriness and constantly providing us with an adrenaline rush. This film is absolutely not a must-watch for horror lovers, but psychological thriller fans can find deep, thought-provoking insights from the film. The central performances by Gallner and Berchtold deserve a lot of admiration for their ability to capture the nuanced shades of their characters.


Overall, The Passenger becomes a must-watch as it expertly executes a thrilling and satisfying conclusion where the cycle of violence is broken. The film manages to convey a profound commentary, suggesting that even in the face of deeply ingrained patterns, change is possible, and individuals can triumph over their past traumas. The performances, coupled with the laser focus on this theme, create a powerful and thought-provoking cinematic experience that lingers in the viewer’s mind.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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Overall, The Passenger becomes a must-watch as it expertly executes a thrilling and satisfying conclusion where the cycle of violence is broken. 'The Passenger' (2023) Summary & Review: Psychological Thriller About Two Victims Of Violence