Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia
Written by: Jon Spaihts
Running Time: 116 mins
Release date: 21st December 2016
With Rogue One commanding the box office during this Christmas period, it takes a very brave film company to take on the might of the Empire with another science fiction film. If any film could do it, Passengers could. With a trailer that was appetisingly tempting, looking like a cross between Sunshine, Event Horizon and Gravity, starring two of Hollywood’s hottest properties right now, what could go wrong? Actually, a lot. For this isn’t just one of the most disappointing films of the year, it’s also morally dubious.
Starship Avalon is heading to a distant new colony carrying 5,000 passengers all hoping for a new life. When the ship is struck by a meteor shower, it awakens one passenger, Jim, from his cryogenic slumber some 90 years too soon. Alone on this vast ship with no company except a cyborg bartender called Arthur, Jim stumbles across Aurora, a beautiful woman sleeping. Jim decides he needs companionship and so tampers with her pod which brings her back to life.
The film is impossibly glossy, with terrific art direction and set designs, making the enormous spaceship a technical delight. Every inch of the ship is brilliantly designed and the camera flows through the endless corridors and rooms like you are on some guided tour of the latest, exclusive hotel. There are elements that are very reminiscent of previous sci-fi classics. The ship’s crew area, with its curved hallway, looks like the dome effect from 2001. It even seems to have borrowed ideas from lesser known films, like Silent Running, with a man alone on a craft whose only friends are robots.
The problem lies in the structure of the piece as well as a central idea that is so questionable, yet it is handled incredibly sloppily. Firstly, the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is this a study of the human condition when pressured into loneliness, like Robinson Crusoe. Then it comes across like some galactic love story, as Jim and Aurora begin to fall in love, then at the blink of an eye, it goes into action-adventure mode, all the while being unbelievably contrived and with more plot holes than a normal A road during the Winter.
There are scenes that make little or no sense. One sequence which you shake your head at thinking there is no way a human could live through that and then there’s that central premise, which is brushed away like it really doesn’t matter. I am trying hard to go give away too much but as it’s part of the plot…if you don’t want to know, then SPOILER ALERT, don’t read the final paragraph at the bottom of the page after the rating. That way, you can enjoy the review and leaves it up to you if you want to know my main quibble.
The two leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have incredible on-screen chemistry (Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard take note!). They literally sizzle. Which is such a shame that they should choose this drab nonsense to be paired together? Surely there must have been better films to star in. Maybe other filmmakers will see the potential and put them together again. In something much better. Although while they work well as a team, the director, Morton Tyldum, obviously has a thing for the pair’s amazing bodies, as he has them dressed in the tight tee-shirts, vest tops and having them remove their clothes as often as possible.
Passengers has so much potential but ultimately delivers very little. It may look all impressive with its sets and have the two leads giving it their all but it’s not enough when the film is so wrong in so many other ways. If you’re looking for decent sci-fi, better get in that queue for Star Wars.
It involves Jim’s releasing of Aurora. Done, I am sure, with perfectly innocent reasoning. Men will do desperate things in desperate times. Yet, it is presented in such a way that you can see he only wants to fall in love with this beautiful woman who is sleeping in a pod, then virtually ruins her life by releasing her for his own uses. Yet in a time when so many women are screaming out about female equality in Hollywood, its female star shouting the loudest, isn’t it curious that she should be in a film that has a man virtually sentence her to a life living in monogamy with a man she was forced to fall in love with? Doesn’t that scream out wrong? What makes it worse is that it is handled fine during the middle section of the film but then brushed under the carpet and forgotten by the final act.