Mr. Futterman already said it in ‘Gremlins’: bugs, of possibly foreign origin, that sneaked into the American war machine and left it useless. So many of his boys fell. As much as the United States government tried to silence him with the masterful educational shorts for soldiers from ‘Private Snafu’ (deliciously honored at the start of the film), the Gremlins were responsible for much of the unexplained plane crashes that occurred during the War.
Or so it maintains ‘Hidden Passenger’ -which arrives today on platforms such as Filmin, Rakuten TV, Movistar + and others-, a joyous piece of life-long consumer cinema that takes advantage of that widespread urban legend to propose a dizzying and hilarious piece of film that gives the viewer much more than what it demands of him. All thanks to a concise and direct script, clear objectives and an impeccable technical finish.
At, A member of the US military travels aboard a fighter with a mysterious package whose contents are confidential. Soon, the distrustful crew relegates him to the belly of the plane, to the narrow compartment reserved for artillery. The newcomer, with experience in military flights, does not complain about the aggressiveness of her companions, but things get complicated when several Japanese fighters attack and the young woman detects an unsuspected presence in the bowels of the plane.
And ‘Hidden passenger’ is nothing more than that. And nothing less: more than half of the film will be spent in the company of Chloë Grace Moretz, who perfectly holds the film on her shoulders and presents us with a heroine of personal and human action, with her weaknesses and her strengths. Her flair for dramatic cinema makes the most emotional moments locked in the cockpit credible, and her commanding presence lends iconic power to the unexpected final fireworks.
Officer and gentlemen
‘Hidden passenger’ is not perfect, but even in its flaws it finds support points to avoid its limitations and offer an extremely refreshing show in these times of serious horror and little knowledge of the possibilities of the classic springs of the genre. For example, the subplot of the package content does not live up to expectations, and yet even in those gaps Chloë Grace Moretz finds the possibility of enriching her character.
The gremlin theme is, as we have said, an icon of North American pop fantasy and mythology, and has been exploited into classics as in the aforementioned ‘Gremlins’ or Richard Matheson’s story ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet’ (and its adaptation to different versions of ‘Twilight Zone’, no less than three times). The plot and tone connect with different fantastic approaches to World War II ranging from the famous episode ‘The Mission’ of ‘Amazing Tales’ directed by Steven Spielberg to multiple war-strange comics such as ‘Weird War Tales’.
It is easy to trace the roots of the fantastic that a film so conscious of its predecessors pays homage with great taste. The great soundtrack of Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper, halfway between the recent fashion synthwave and the orchestral fanfare of the eighties genre cinema, replicates that devotion to the best tradition of the genre, and its only concession to modernity is in a feminist approach (which could be said to be an explicit cut of sleeves to the screenwriter Max Landis, responsible for the original idea, but whose libretto was modified by the director Roseanne Liang). That approach will churn more of an unfriendly fan stomach for mutations in traditional gender roles.
Even the monster, a common problem in these consciously minor productions, is above films that multiply the budget of ‘Hidden Passenger’ by ten. Its magnificent design, execution and screen presence -pure monster movie from two decades ago, a la ‘Tremors’- and the good taste with which he handles the inevitable CGI effects confirm that there is still room for films that do not confuse empty and gratuitous nostalgia with the exquisite knowledge of their references.