It’s the ultimate blind date – being stranded in space together… for the rest of your lives.
When Jim Preston signed up to start a new life on a new planet his expectations didn’t quite match up to reality in the new film Passengers.Leaving his friends and family behind him and essentially everything he’s ever known Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) embarks on an entirely new and potentially very exciting adventure. On a voyage to a destination that takes 120 earth years, the starship Avalon makes its slow and steady way to Homestead II, a new colony planet where Jim along with 4,999 other passengers and 258 crew plan to start a new life.Well, that was the idea until Jim’s hibernation pod malfunctions yanking him out of a deep sleep 90 years too early. Awake and expecting to meet all the other passengers who’ve upped sticks, Jim quickly realises that everyone else is still asleep. Desperate to go back to sleep Jim tries everything he can think of to figure out what went wrong with his pod but is unable to return to the hibernation that his fellow passengers are blissfully enjoying.
Awake and all alone Jim familiarises himself with his new surroundings – a huge spaceship that’s more of a floating luxury cruise liner kitted out with all the mod cons you’d expect from a futuristic space vessel – it’s here that we get an amusing montage of Jim’s slow decent into a caveman like rut. Jim takes full advance of everything on offer from fancy restaurants to a ‘dance off’ simulator to upgrading his low level cabin to an exclusive gold member luxurious apartment which provide some of the more amusing moments of the film.
Jim’s only interaction comes from Arthur (Michael Sheen) an android bartender who is on hand to fulfil his only patron's every alcoholic wish in scenes reminiscent of The Shining. Resigned to drinking his life away with only Arthur for company Jim begins to accept his fate; that is until Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) is also jolted out of her sleeping beauty like slumber. Realising that he might just be the luckiest guy alive - or at least awake - Jim finally has someone real to talk to who also happens to be his ideal woman. Both awake, alone and aware that they will probably die before they reach the colony planet Jim and Aurora try to make the best of a pretty dire situation. But this is a movie and things aren’t always as smooth sailing as they appear.
Directing this one man and one woman show is Morten Tyldun (The Immitation Game). Taking a story written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) Passengers has all the potential to be a bit dull. And if it weren’t for the sheer amount of visually pleasing set-pieces, it probably would be a straight up flop. The film is equally split into 3 acts; the first of which plays out more like a comedy but doesn’t have quite the same panache as The Martian or Moon; the second act is where the film tries to get a bit serious throwing in questions of ethics and morals into the equation in an attempt to build tension but doesn’t manage to really achieve it fully and the third act takes yet another turn in a last ditch attempt to really utilise the space theme and while it does feature probably one of the best scenes of the film (Aurora in a swimming pool during a lack of gravity) it finishes with one of the most ridiculous endings I’ve seen in a while.
With a fairly weak storyline it’s a good job that the visuals manage to pick up the slack
The real saving grace of Passengers is how it looks. Bathed in tons of white and grey the spacecraft is every bit as clinical and futuristic as you would expect it to be. With automated computers failing to offer any help to our stranded protagonists, the space works well to emphasise their sense of isolation.
It’s not at a total loss though, Pratt does what he can with a very flat character and while there’s not a lot given away about Jim, he manages to be reasonably likeable whilst playing second fiddle to Lawrence’s Aurora. With a lot more to work with Aurora’s character is the driving force behind much of the story and Lawrence plays her well, giving her a both soft side and a hard edge. There is another role from a big name, but without giving too much away, it’s ultimately just a cameo role and one that serves as a bridge between the second and third act.
The best advice I can offer is to try and stay away from any trailers and reviews offering up too much information, if it’s not too late. I went into the cinema expecting one type of film and was watching something completely different. Much of this film works on knowing nothing about it which luckily, apart from the trailer, I didn’t. Passengers is an incredibly easy watch and will just about keep those spirits lifted at this time of year.
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