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***SPOILER FREE*** A huge starship called the Avalon makes its way to a colony planet called ‘Homestead II’ where its 5000 passengers will make a new life for themselves away from Earth after it becomes overpopulated. Two passengers aboard, Jim Preston (Pratt), an engineer, and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a journalist, are awoken from hypersleep, which all the passengers have been put under, way too early – there are still 90 years before the ship is due to land. The two begin a love affair but struggle to accept their fate and matters worsen when a number of malfunctions start to occur all over the ship.
We’ve had a lot of big CGI space-set movies of late with Gravity and Interstellar being the most recent major successes. Passengers is neither as thought-provoking nor as concerned with spectacle – though its special effects are impressive, the focus of the film remains on the relationship between Jim and Aurora – as its predecessors, but it remains entertaining thanks to its two spectacular leads.
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence have proven time and again that they can deliver charism and emotional complexity, and Passengers is most interesting as a study of two actors who know exactly what they’re doing and look great on screen doing it (no pun intended). Pratt, who we are introduced to first, is the perfect lead, modern and yet charmingly old school, while Lawrence imbues her character with intelligence and charm. The two also have credibly intimate chemistry.
They’re supported by Michael Sheen, who plays the robotic bar tender Arthur. At first one gets an almost The Shining vibe from the ship’s hotel-like layout, and this includes the moment when Jim first approaches the bar that Arthur works at, but it quickly becomes evident that the ship and its automatic ‘staff’ are relatively amicable, so don’t expect anything akin to the Alien franchise here. It also bears resonance to Pixar hit Walle, but again it’s not quite that film either, which keeps the viewer guessing and on their toes about how the plot will play out.
As with any sci fi flick, there are a few hair-pulling moments of frustration when it comes to accepting the film’s logic, for example, how can there be no plan in place for the sleeping pods if an error occurs and passengers awaken from hyper sleep? How are there so few emergency procedures? Even if ‘there hasn’t been a fault in over a hundred years’, we’ve also known for over a hundred years that safety needs to be as assured as possible, and over the years there have been increasingly more steps put in place which take safety into account, not less.
Director Morten Tyldum’s past credits include The Imitation Game and Headhunters, so he has a knack with actors and an infectious drive for storytelling. Passengers is flawed by way of the latter, particularly when it relies too heavily on emotional manipulation, but one gets the sense that Tyldum has potential, and when he gets the right movie, he’s going to do something amazing with it.
The film is also a little too long, and it’s not going into the classics pile anytime soon, but there are enough twists and turns from the get go to keep audiences intrigued and to provide an enjoyable, entertaining movie outing.
Review by Deirdre Molumby | 16:55 | Tuesday 20th December 2016 | Movie Review