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Dustin's Review

Capsule Review
Passion  (2013)
2½ Stars
Directed by Brian De Palma.
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Paul Anderson, Karoline Herfurth, Rainer Bock.
2013 – 105 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for sexual content, language and some violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 7, 2013.
It has been far too long since Brian De Palma made a motion picture worthy of his Hitchcockian heyday in the late-'70s/early-'80s, and while "Passion" is not an equal to his very best films, 1981's "Blow Out" and 1980's "Dressed to Kill," it's a step in the right direction. Blackmail. Spying. Twins. Murder. Sexual perversity. Split-screens. De Palma is up to his old tricks, and it feels great to have him back—even if all of these subjects have been covered to better effect in the past. An English-language adaptation of Alain Corneau's 2011 French thriller "Love Crimes," "Passion" uplifts the routine with an artistic savvy and two wickedly good performances from Noomi Rapace (2013's "Dead Man Down") and Rachel McAdams (2013's "To the Wonder").

At Berlin advertising agency Koch Image International, high-powered boss Christine (Rachel McAdams) thinks she and hard-working protégée Isabelle (Noomi Rapace) make an ideal team—or, at least, that's what she says. When Isabelle creates a Smart Phone ad that goes over like gangbusters with their clients, Christine sweeps in and takes the credit for it. "There's no backstabbing here. It's just business," Christine tells Isabelle with a catty smile. Not comfortable with sitting idly in Christine's shadow, Isabelle releases the ad online, only to see it go viral. What follows is an increasingly heightened war of one-upmanship, one that comes to also involve Isabelle's adoring assistant Dani (Karoline Herfurth) and Christina's unfaithful boyfriend Dirk (Paul Anderson).

The veteran filmmaker's most notable effort since 2002's "Femme Fatale"—let's all try to forget the large-scale, waywardly hilarious disaster that was 2006's would-be thriller "The Black Dahlia"—"Passion" is driven by the sensual, manipulative interplay between Isabelle and Christine, the former driven close to a nervous breakdown as the latter goes to extreme lengths to ensure Isabelle is kept tightly wrapped around her finger. Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams are voraciously satisfying in these juicy roles, and a set-piece paralleling Isabelle's visit to the ballet to see "Afternoon with a Faun" with the tense stalking of Christine at her home is the kind of moody highlight that screams De Palma. "Passion" doesn't really break any new ground for the director, and yet as a technical exercise it's nice to see him back in his element.
© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman