Movie Review: Passengers (2016)
“Nothing Happens By Accident”
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen
Synopsis: A passenger on a spaceship transporting more than 5000 people to a distant planet is awoken from suspended animation ninety years early.
Like us on FacebookCatch all our reviews on Facebook.
It’s not Laurence Fishburne’s fault – he does his job well enough – but his appearance in director Morton Tyldum’s Passengers marks the point at which the film departs from its intelligent contemplation of the moral quandary at the core of its plot and unaccountably devolves into a horribly trite and formulaic Hollywood Movie, complete with superhuman heroics and an improbable return from the dead. It’s difficult to think of any other movie that self-destructs so badly…
The film takes place upon the Starship Avalon, a spaceship the size of a town on which 5259 people in a state of suspended animation are transported across vast reaches of space to begin a new life on Homestead II. Actually, make that 5258, because thirty years into its 120-year journey, the sleep chamber in which Jim Preston (Chris Pratt – 10 Years, The Magnificent Seven) was peacefully slumbering opens prematurely, leaving him faced with a life of total isolation which will come to an end long before the Avalon reaches its destination. One year later, Preston is in a state of mental anguish. His thoughts are turning to suicide when chance leads him to the sleeping figure of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, American Hustle), a writer planning to spend just one year on Homestead II before returning to the Earth of the future. Enchanted, Jim finds himself falling in love with the sleeping beauty after researching her profile and interviews in the ship’s computer database. He longs to awaken her, not with a kiss but an instruction manual and strategically inserted screwdriver, but is haunted by the moral implications of doing so.
‘No man is an island’ we’re told, and for much of its running time Passenger contemplates this truism in a perceptive and thoughtful fashion. It’s impossible for us not to put ourselves in Jim’s shoes and to consider what we would do if we were in his position. As Fishburne’s character points out near the film’s end, Jim was drowning and reached out for Aurora to prevent himself from going under for the final time. Of course, that doesn’t excuse what Jim did, but humans are gregarious creatures; we thrive on social and interpersonal interaction, and a part of us dies when deprived of it. Jim’s thoughts of suicide are understandable, as is the instinctive will to survive which prevents him from throwing a switch that will propel him into space without a spacesuit. His decision to awaken Aurora is the only option open to him which offers any kind of salvation, and yet it also condemns him to live a life overshadowed by guilt.
Jon Speiht’s screenplay takes its time to explore all the implications of Jim’s decision, and provides us with plenty to think about as it does so. Preston is a likeable protagonist – which is vitally important – and Aurora given enough fire and intelligence to persuasively articulate her sense of betrayal. But that horrible, horrible ending, which would be unworthy of a considerably lesser picture than Passengers, is so poor that it pretty much sabotages the entire film. So, if you want to get the most from Passengers, watch until Fishburne makes his appearance then leave the cinema and come up with an ending of your own. Trust me – it will be better than the one Speiht came up with.
(Reviewed 5th January 2017)