Passengers (2016) – Film Review
Reporter: Paul Chan
Date online: 24 December 2016
PASSENGERS is the main cinema alternative to Rogue One this month, starring Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, X-Men Apocalypse) and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World).
Written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), and directed by Morten Tyldum (Imitation Game) Passengers is a story of a Earth starship, Avalon, on a 120 year voyage to the Homestead II colony.
It’s a new beginning for 5,000 passengers and 258 crew who are in suspended animation for the long trip but an unexpected encounter with a meteor shower causes unforeseen damage to the ship which sees engineer Jim Preston (Pratt) woken up early due to a malfunction.
To his horror, he has woken up 90 years before his scheduled wake-up time and finds himself unable to get back into hibernation to complete his journey.
Faced with a lifetime alone with no company apart from an affable android bartender called Arthur (Michael Sheen), he has initially accepts his fate but finds his solitary life ultimately depressing to the point where he has to make a decision about his future.
In the depths of his despair he discovers a fellow passenger, writer Aurora Lane (Lawrence), and discovers how to wake her up but has to wrestle with his conscience over effectively dooming her to the same fate as him for the sake of having another person to speak to.
The first third of this film jarringly shifts from science fiction through psychological horror to a romantic film but there’s another plot shift coming when Aurora discovers the truth behind her own hibernation pod ‘malfunction’.
For me, this remains a flaw despite the film's time taken to explaining the motivations behind Jim's actions and his weeks of agonising.
There’s little screen time for Aurora to react in the second act once she finds out the devastating truth, and needless to say Aurora’s reaction is entirely understandable, but the malfunctions due to the incident which woke Jim up quickly become more common and less trivial and begin to threaten the safety of the ship.
Despite being an engineer on a ship which has malfunctioned, Jim had been stunningly incurious about finding out more about the problems and why they have sporadically continued over time.
It all becomes a bit more urgent as the second act awkwardness quickly gives way to third act jeopardy which brings Jim and Aurora back together to make sure that they and the ship’s sleeping passengers and crew have a chance to continue their voyage.
Unfortunately for Passengers, danger in space has been done much better recently in Gravity (2013) – the Sandra Bullock film – whereas this film seemed to go though the action scenes in a perfunctory and derivative way.
Like the starship Avalon, then, this film is glossy, high budget, and not that bad to spend time with but leaves you feeling a bit empty whilst also noticing the errors and missteps.
There are better space movies out at the moment – Rogue One being the reason why this film is stuck out in the smaller screens in most cinemas – and despite Pratt and Lawrence making a likeable couple at the start there’s better films out there.
If you can suspend your disbelief at the plot twist, it’s passable and even enjoyable.
Passengers (12A; moderate threat, brief injury detail, sexual activity; 116 minutes)
Summary: PASSENGERS is a US sci-fi drama in which a man, travelling through space to a distant colony, awakes early from hibernation.
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