Film Review: PASSENGERS (2016). Jennifer Lawrence. Chris Pratt

passengers_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen

Review by Gilbert Seah

PASSENGERS arrives at the height of the success of polished looking sci-fi hits like THE MARTIAN, GRAVITY and ARRIVAL. PASSENGERS also looks stunning, thanks to the awesome art direction, wardrobe, cinematography and sets. But unfortunately, the film soon gets lost in space, unable to wake up from its initial promise.

The film’s action takes place aboard the Starship Avalon, on a 120-year voyage transporting over 5000 colonists to Homestead II, a planet so far from earth the journey takes 120 years. The colonists are placed into hibernation for the journey. The ship hits a meteor storm. A malfunction wakes up a passenger, mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), 90-years early. The film spends a lengthy first 40 minutes or so with Jim roaming around the spaceship alone discovering the horror of not only being the only one alive but knowing he would be dead by the time the ship reaches its destination. Humorously, he tries to send an S.O.S. message back to earth but realizes that it not only takes 5 years for the message to reach earth but that it will cost him several thousand dollars.

He gets some companionship (and free drinks) from a bartender android (Michael Sheen). Preston notices a beautiful sleeping writer in another pod, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and decides to wake her up from hibernation to keep him company. (The script could also have been more imaginative than naming the heroine Aurora.) This means a death sentence for her as well. They fall in love and things go smoothly till she learns the truth. This is when the film falls apart.

The couple eventually get back together with Aurora finally saving Jim from being lost in outer space very much the same way Matt Damon almost got himself lost in THE MARTIAN. Things get even more ridiculous with an oasis present complete with birds (yes, birds – where did they come from?) by the 90 years the ship reaches Homestead II.

PASSENGERS is directed by Morten Tyldum who made the World War II thriller THE IMITATION GAME. In PASSENGERS, he and the scriptwriter Jon Spaihts cannot decide if the film is supposed to be a thriller, horror, romance or sci-fi adventure. They decide on ‘all of the above’. This is basically a story of a really intelligent writer and a creepy stalker who should pay for his sins. Instead, he is forgiven and saved and made a hero. PASSENGERS would have succeeded as a horror flick close to what ALIENS was.

The film is also basically a two handler. Lawrence and Pratt are fortunately two fine looking actors that audiences can look at for two hours. But the introduction of Lawrence Fishburne as Gus, an engineer also woken up by pod failure, adds a welcome change to the proceedings.
There are a few action sequences such as Jim’s race against time to repair the ship before it explodes in heat and his rescue from outer space. These are two of the film’s most ridiculous segments. PASSENGERS ends up both ridiculous and plain silly.


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