A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
‘Passengers’ is a flawed but enjoyable space set thriller, centering on two people who are woken 90 years earlier than planned from an induced hibernation on board a spaceship heading for a new planet. Those two people are mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and the film focuses both on how they cope in coming to terms with their circumstances, as well as their attempts to find out why they (and only they) were woken in the first place. I thought it was a very good and intriguing film for the first two thirds, before it falls apart towards the end with a rushed and unsatisfying conclusion.
Chris Pratt’s very quickly became one of Hollywood’s leading men, starring in some of the biggest projects around, and it’s easy to see why based on his performance here. His likeability as a performer is fairly crucial in how we consider some of the decisions his character makes, and it’s credit to Pratt and the writing that he still remains someone worth rooting for. He also works really well with Jennifer Lawrence and they build up a touching rapport that I was fully invested in, even if it starts to falter towards the end as the story surrounding it begins to fall apart. Beyond the central duo, Michael Sheen is the primary support as an android bartender who essentially exists to give the main characters someone to interact with, and he does so well. Laurence Fishburne appears later and unfortunately his arrival signals the film beginning to move downhill in terms of quality, albeit it’s not his fault.
The film’s got a great premise and I particularly enjoyed the early parts of the film when the focus is squarely on establishing the premise, showcasing the world on board the ship and tentatively starting to explore how Jim and Aurora handle the situation they find themselves in. I felt their actions were believable and I felt the writing handled some of the trickier moral dilemmas well without compromising in a way that would fatally damage the film’s story. It’s well paced at this point, but that all changes once the film moves towards the final act and becomes solely about resolving the questions the narrative has set up, and Jon Spaihts script forgets about the reason the film was interesting to begin with, namely its characters as it attempts to speedily reach a conclusion. I’m no expert on science, nor does it matter immensely on a future set science fiction movie, but the way things pan out seems ridiculous and out of kilter with the way the ship and the setting has been developed to this point.
I did like ‘Passengers’, largely down to the strong central performances from Pratt and Lawrence, and a good premise delivered solidly for the most part, but it is a film that doesn’t know how to handle its final act and it ultimately disappoints as a result.
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia and Aurora Perrineau