Running Time: 132 minutes
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Featuring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen
Arthur: “You two look fine this evening.”
Aurora: “We’re on a date.”
Arthur: “Very nice.”
Aurora: [to Jim] “Took you long enough to ask.”
Believe it or not there was a time when quality Sci-Fi films were far and few between, the only way to get a fix was to rent a direct to video B movie and suffer through terrible special effects, unoriginal scripts and awful acting. However, over the past ten years (since the advent of new special effect techniques and the release of “Avatar” (2009)) they have become a staple of not only the US Summer season but like the release of “Passengers” has moved into the prestige part of the year. “Passengers” is an effective and enjoyable film that combines many tropes, the lone man who eventually meets a girl who is his perfect match and then both face decisions of self sacrifice to save a way of life – it makes for great entertainment.
“Passengers” is set on the starship Avalon, on its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as “Homestead II” and transporting 5,259 people, has a malfunction in two of its sleep chambers. As a result, two hibernation pods open prematurely and the two people that awake are stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from their destination. Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence) is a journalist from New York City who is interested in cosmic travel. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a mechanical engineer from Denver who wants to leave Earth and bought the ticket for the journey. The two soon discover that the malfunction that caused them to be awakened prematurely is not the only problem afflicting the huge spaceship, and as they try to find a way out, they soon find themselves falling in love.
Morten Tyldum directs from a script written by Jon Spaihts, who has previously written this years excellent “Doctor Strange” (2016) and the mixed “Prometheus” (2012), so he is no stranger to sci-fi or to films that follow distinct tropes – he is also able to mix these to generate something original but that, at the same time, seems very familiar. Tyldum whose last film “The Imitation Game” (2014) garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Director follows up his moody period piece here with a gigantic blockbuster with two of the most popular actors working today, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, as well the magnificent supporting cast Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne. To my mind he is having a blast with a massive budget and a high quality script with two actors wanting to make a moody, what is a character piece.
There is plenty to admire within this film and the special effects are something to behold, so this demands to be seen on the big screen – the space walks and the temporary loss of gravity on the ship are pretty not only incredible but breathtaking, it does remind me of some elements of not only “Prometheus” but other movies set entirely on a spaceship, this one however eschews action for a tense drama with two main characters struggling with what it means to leave a life behind, and knowing that they will never reach their goal and fall short by decade – whilst self sacrifice plays a part so does the selfishness that only humans can act on.
There is also an Adam and Eve story here that includes a tree and a sickness that envelopes the idyllic “Eden” wherein the two principals have to work together to solve their issues and decide whether to separate or stay together and build their own Eden – I will not say what the solution is but it is unique and the ending is satisfying and even includes an Andy Garcia cameo – which is always good to see.
If you are looking for a food solid sci-fi yarn with a love story thrown in and a comment on the current state of technology (and its limitations) and where we may be heading as a race then this is the film for you!