Passengers

Passengers (2016)
Passengers poster Rating: 7.1/10 (66,391 votes)
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Runtime: 116 min
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance
Released: 21 Dec 2016
Plot: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

I was late to the party on this film.  The trailers intrigued me, and I was looking forward to the release, but then the negative criticism began to flow not only from the critics but from audiences, so I opted to seek out other films to watch around the same time instead.  So it was that by the time I sat down to view Passengers, I was certain it would be a mess.

A vessel, Avalon, making its way through space to deliver people to a distant colony keeps its passengers and crew in suspended hibernation for the 120 year journey.  However, whilst en-route the vessel takes some damage from a rather large asteroid storm, and one of the pods opens early.  The passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) awakes thinking that he has only months left before arriving at the destination.  As he settles himself into his cabin, he becomes suspicious at the lack of presence of other passengers, and begins to hunt for any other signs of life.  As realisation dawns that he is the only one awake, he tries to find a way to awaken the crew, but to no avail, and spends a year alone on the ship with only an android bartender, Artur (Michael Sheen in a role that steals every scene he crops up in) for company.  When circumstance leads to the awakening of a second passenger, a writer named Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), the pair begin to grow close over the following year, until revelations turn their lives on their heads…

Visually Passengers is a stunning film.   From the exterior shots of Avalon, the space-walk sections, to the interior design, the whole thing is marvellous to watch.  Morten Tyldum handles the sci-fi adventure well, grounding it on board the ship more than anything else, and making the film about the occupants of the ship, not the sci-fi itself.  Pratt and Lawrence are both well suited to their parts, and the interplay between them works to some degree, although is let down by a lack of run-time to let us genuinely feel the development of their relationship.  Indeed, the year that Pratt is alone doesn’t quite feel like a year, and you do ponder whether the story may have played better as a mini-series, allowing for a genuine feel of time flowing.

However, is the film as terrible as the critics would attest?  Not at all!  In fact, reading some critical responses, and the main issue a lot have with the film, it appears that they may have missed a key character development scene which would explain a lot of their gripes.  I won’t delve into it here as, you know, spoilers, but paying attention to details pays off in this case.

But there are issues with the film though.  The aforementioned lack of a sense of time for one, but more importantly the fact that after a really solid, slow paced sci-fi feel, akin to classics such as Silent Running, the final act devolves into a rushed disaster movie feel, which leads to a lot of contrived moments that feel far too forced.  Laurence Fishburne shows up in a potentially interesting role far too late in the film, and the rushed events that follows are almost farcical as a result.  Again, a mini-series approach may have helped here, but in a film just shy of two hours it is all a bit of a jumble.

Passengers is a decently made, entertainingly enticing, yet flawed film, but is certainly isn’t as flawed as a certain other sci-fi outing from December 2016, and has a cast that are a lot more engaging than that film.  With a bit more run-time, and maybe a bit more confidence in keeping it about the human element, this could have stood proud among the great sci-fi films of the past.

 

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