Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
"The movie finds De Palma at his most playful (or grandiose, depending on your point of view) since Femme Fatale—it's the sort of movie his fans usually eat right up. (I'm not even a De Palma fan, and I had loads of fun watching it.)
"Many of the compositions exhibit classical virtues of symmetry and opposition. De Palma regularly dresses the dark-haired Rapace in all-black and the blonde McAdams in white or red. Even before De Palma starts introducing preposterous coincidences and double crosses, the characters register as doppelgangers—Rapace's flat underplaying seems intended to compliment McAdams's exuberant hamminess (which is a hoot, by the way). Likewise, the women's professional rivalry—a totally arbitrary power struggle within a multinational advertising firm—is underscored by intimations of sexual attraction. Once De Palma establishes these basic oppositions, he goes wild finding different ways to recombine—and re-double—them. When McAdams's character confesses to having a twin sister, it feels inevitable.
"Passion is a superficial film, but not an empty one. Amidst in the visual motifs, De Palma manages to touch on the following themes: corporate power, advertising, sexual desire, sadomasochistic relationships, and longing for love. The movie doesn't offer a coherent statement about any of these subjects, though De Palma interweaves them with a musicality comparable to his visual style. There's an odd poignancy to those moments where the themes related to dominance intersect with those related to vulnerability, suggesting that the pursuit of classical synthesis carries the risk of annihilation."
Will Noah, Double Exposure
"The film’s first half consists of deliberate set-up, or, to quote De Palma’s introduction to the film at last year’s NYFF, 'two black widow spiders circling each other.' At the midway point of the film, though, De Palma shifts into overdrive, bathing his images in blue light, slashing his compositions with diagonal lines, and piling twist after twist onto the increasingly frenzied narrative. The movie peaks in this half with a virtuoso split-screen sequence juxtaposing a ballet performance with a murder shot from the attacker’s perspective. This high-wire act justifies the movie’s existence on its own, hitting the dissertation-fodder-with-a-pulse sweet spot of De Palma’s best work.
"Passion has a hard time topping that brilliant set piece, though it sure tries, breaking into a last-act flop sweat that produces exhilaration and exhaustion in equal measure. That the movie ultimately collapses on itself is not much of a surprise; what’s more interesting is the paranoid atmosphere that the collapse generates. Above all, Passion is a movie fixated on the plastic qualities of images; as much as De Palma is interested in logos and fetishized bodies, he’s even more captivated by the digital forms that mediate them. In this film about deception, video is the ultimate shape-shifter, fulfilling many functions, often at once: advertising, surveillance, communication, pornography, evidence. The fact that De Palma shot Passion on celluloid seems not just a result of his automatic preference for the format, but a concerted attempt to assimilate all these forms of video under the old-fashioned heading of cinema. The fact that he doesn’t entirely succeed, ending up with a heap of jagged edges rather than a unified aesthetic whole, doesn’t constitute a failure so much as a psychological portrait of our image-saturated society. Passion is not merely an uneven erotic thriller; it’s a nightmare reflection of the confusion we face in a world where images manipulate us as much as we control them."
Robert Bell, Exclaim!
"Amusingly, Christine tells a story about a dead twin sister, which references De Palma's Sisters and later plays a trick on Isabelle that clearly reflects on the callous treatment of Carrie. An actual shot reconstruction from Raising [Cain] pops up in the final moments and the Body Double mask is omnipresent. This just scratches the surface of the inside joke observations peppered throughout this increasingly ridiculous melodrama, making the actual storyline between Isabelle, Christine and an even lower hanging fruit, Dani (Karoline Herfurth), secondary to the intense stylization and comedy of self-criticism that Passion really is.
"Still, McAdams clearly has a blast playing a calculating bitch and the inevitable hyper-stylized and meticulously edited climax sequence, which De Palma is known for, is as riveting in exaggerated comic form as it is in sincere thriller form.
"It's just unfortunate that those unfamiliar with the director's work will have absolutely no context for the abstract and oblique tonal shifts or the references, leaving them to dismiss the film as terrible."
Ian Bartholomew, Taipea Times
"McAdams and Rapace are beautiful pawns in De Palma’s own manipulative exercise in which he toys with the audience’s expectations, making uncertainty feel deliciously exciting. Complex, sometimes even a little confusing, De Palma always keeps things under control in this gorgeously orchestrated symphony of jealousy, betrayal and violence."
Tom Stoup, Sound On Sight
"The operatic Passion is pulpy perfection. By now Brian De Palma could probably sleepwalk his way through such material, but to his credit he appears to still be giving it his tireless all."
Bruce DeMara, The Toronto Star
"For a film with so much kink, seduction and sex, the film fails so badly in its execution —despite a quite promising first act — that one’s ultimate reaction is likely to be indifference, bemusement or outright disdain considering the pedigree of the filmmaker helming the project."
Chris Knight, Postmedia News
"The film, with its melodramatic score, numerous Dutch tilts, endless shots of people waking from nightmare imaginings and a bizarre split screen during a dance recital, looks like it’s trying to be the Black Swan of the advertising world. It’s a lofty ambition, but the problem with such a tightrope act is that one slip will kill the movie."
Harrison Foster, Just Press Play
"Passion, as a film, has a mind of its own as well, and a philosophical agenda that's even more consistent and explicit than that. Hiding in plain sight as what will seem a waste of time to most audiences, and a huge disappointment to most De Palma devotees, Passion slyly emerges as a manifesto of hostility toward new technologies, and movie culture's transition from cinema to streaming.
"It opens with an extreme close-up of that ubiquitous image that has found its way into not only what feels like every movie we watch, but every direction we look outside of the screen – that glowing white apple. Sure, that computer company's logo has been in films for years now, for much longer than people have lined up for its new products (in fact, its cinematic prevalence is one of the main reasons people starting lining up in the first place), but the product placement has never been this blatant, this transparent, or this loud. This goes beyond the allegedly satirical yet still effective ads peppered throughout Minority Report – a glowing apple that so obscenely dominates the frame inspires revulsion, not budgeting for a new small screen."
Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
"All of this is utterly non-naturalistic, with trite dialogue and broadly drawn performances. Shot in intense colours by Pedro Almodovar’s cinematographer José Luis Alcaine, it all resembles a melodrama performed on a fashion set. The schematic design is deliberately obtrusive: Isabelle has her own admiring hottie assistant, Dani (Karoline Herfurth), this time a redhead, to complement the blond Christine and brunette Isabelle. All this makes Passion, in a conventional sense, a bad movie: The performances are stiffly artificial, the characters’ machinations preposterous.
"It just happens to be a bad movie that’s good to look at. Then, at about the two-thirds mark, De Palma pushes the film to a new level of abstraction, in its pattern of doubling, coupling and severing images. It begins with a split screen: On the left is a modern-dance performance, set to Claude Debussy’s L’après-midi d’un faune – the recital will later serve as one of the characters’ alibi for a murder. On the right, we see the murder conducted with similar meticulous choreography.
The movie’s last third features more attention-grabbing camera moves, more bondage-gear footwear, more barred shadows, more plot complications and, for genre’s sake, a hang-dog middle-aged detective, Inspector Bach (Rainer Bock), who’s dumb enough to try to figure it out. By this point, the movie feels almost experimentally detached from its characters, a giddy assemblage of shots that summarize De Palma’s contribution to the thriller genre. There’s passion here all right, but it’s for the filmmaking, not the film."