★★★★ Directed by Morten Tyldum Starring Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence & Michael Sheen Film Review by Chris Olson
Ever woken up during the night only to realise that you have hours of sleep left before you need to be up? For most people this is a blissful realisation that causes unparalleled joy amongst the sleep-deprived. For main character Jim (Chris Pratt) in science fiction film Passengers, his reaction is far less enthused, having woken up 90 years too soon! Aboard a vessel headed to a new world, Jim is one of 5000 passengers in a cryogenic sleep that is meant to last the 120 years it will take to arrive at their destination: Homestead II. However, a meteor storm causes a bit of a ruckus and jerks Jim out of his slumber too early. After realising there is no way to get back to sleep, and spending a year goofing around on the high tech spaceship, he decides to manually wake another passenger, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), whom he has slightly fallen for after watching her pre-launch video logs. After a time of romantic bants, following Aurora's inevitably difficult adjustment to her predicament, the time nears when Jim must fess up to being the reason that Aurora will spend the rest of her days as a passenger. From the movie trailer, audiences may go into Passengers with slightly mixed apprehension. Is it a romantic comedy? A high action space thriller? A survival film? The answer is all of the above. Director Morten Tyldum delivers a movie segmented into these filmic genres whilst keeping the whole thing light and slow paced. Pratt basically plays the Tom Hanks character from Castaway (2000) for the opening section of the film, with Michael Sheen serving as a suave android bartender for company instead of a volleyball with a bloody handprint for a face. Then the middle section is Chris and Jen go on a date, with plenty of creative manipulation to the ship's built in activities. And the third section is I'm stranded in space get me out of here. This may all seem formulaic and tedious, and some of Passengers is just that, but the film is also littered with fantastic set pieces and a pacing which allows the genres to roll into each other without feeling too crowbarred in. There are standout moments in the film which are breathtaking, such as Pratt's first space walk or Lawrence's zero gravity swim session, which are both cinematically gripping. The tone of the film never delves into the heavy peril of something like Moon (2009) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which is much to its credit. It was refreshing to see a film with this set up that stayed with the characters and their connection, rather than steamrolling into wider philosophical ideas or some alien menace/disturbed AI terrorising the ship. In fact, it has more in common with a sci fi film like Gravity (2013). The composition from Thomas Newman is outstanding! A really beautiful journey that accompanies the varying emotional moments experienced by our protagonists, whilst capturing the epic scale of space. During the aforementioned space walk, the scene is joined by a phenomenal piece of music which perfectly captured the monumental feeling of free falling into the abyss he must have felt. Whilst Passengers had a lot to like about it, there was nothing to really love. Yes the comedy and chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence was really enjoyable, and the set design was fantastically created, but audiences may struggle to fully envelop themselves into the drama. This could be because of pre-existing expectations of what a film with this type of A list cast would bring, or simply because it's a film with a confused identity. Either way there exists a fractured foundation whereby the film wants to explore something new but within the very safe confines of what has come before. Entertaining and momentarily arresting, Passengers is an enjoyable journey but not one you would buy a return ticket for.
Watch the Passengers Movie Trailer below