By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Passengers is a sleek and shiny interstellar sci-fi about a flight that makes the L.A. to Sydney look like a walk in the park. It’s ultimately a love story with some occasional disaster movie elements thrown in. Titanic in space? Sometimes it’s exactly that.
Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jim (Chris Pratt) are two passengers on the ‘Avalon’, an epic spaceship that effortlessly glides through space towards a newly colonised world. Things become a bit complicated when Aurora and Jim wake from cryosleep 90 years too early. What do they do? They hook up of course.
Passengers is an interesting project as it’s by director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). It seems that he was aiming for Oscar glory again, especially with acting material like Jennifer Lawrence. But the film falls a little short as a contender simply because it just isn’t as epic as it could have been. Lawrence is decent as ambitious writer Aurora, but is rarely given a chance to show the emotional range that she’s known for, aside from a few moments instigated by Jim.
Chris Pratt has come a long way from sit-com Parks and Recreation but I found his placement in Passengers a bit out of whack. Although Pratt is improving as a dramatic actor, it’s impossible not to see him as the uber annoying and immature ‘Star Lord’ from Guardians of the Galaxy. Surprisingly though, he is rather serious in the role of Jim – a humble mechanic travelling across the galaxy to build bigger and better worlds. Understandable since this is first and foremost a romantic drama.
In saying that, being the only two people on a huge spaceship for the next 90 years, I would have liked to have seen more on the psychological drama front here. Tyldum only skims the surface and never really goes into the nitty gritty of complex emotions. A shame because Arthur the robotic bartender (Michael Sheen) could have been a great mediator for such situations, and Lawrence always excels in dramatic roles. But Tyldum has succeeded in one area, and that’s making a modern Titanic love story that does have some originality and will certainly appeal to younger generations. Even if I’m not exactly the greatest fan of romance films myself.
The visuals are out of this world beautiful and quite complex considering that a lot of recent sci-fi movies have put a focus on minimalism and tried to keep everything as realistic as possible. There are some nice space walk scenes on the streamline exterior of the Avalon, and the interior looks like something Steve Jobs himself would approve of. A lot of research has gone into air travel here. Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson should take careful note.
The string that tied it all together however was the soundtrack by the great Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Skyfall). His signature use of bells, piano and a multitude of other percussion instruments drives the entire film, especially in the more turbulent scenes. The soundtrack doesn’t accompany the film, the film accompanies the soundtrack… and it also helped me forget about some of plot holes.
There’s been a bit of controversy around this film comparing Pratt’s character Jim to a stalker.. Honestly, that’s blowing it out of proportion a bit. He makes mistakes but it’s nothing compared to trash like Fifty Shades of Grey. Take a risk and give Passengers a try.
Great review thanks. I concur with your disappointment; it has all the ingredients for a great Sci-Fi but ends up being a messy rom-com melodrama.
Well spotted! Thank you!