Film review by Jason Day of Passengers, a science fiction romance about two people awoken early from hibernation sleep on a spaceship. Starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.
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During a deep-space flight to a new world, far away from Earth, engineer Jim (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously awoken from hibernation when his sleep compartment fails. Despite the company of friendly robotic barman Arthur (Michael Sheen), he is otherwise alone, with no means of receiving an immediate answer to an SOS and no way of fixing his compartment to return to sleep. Disturbed after more than a year with no human company, he wakes Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). They fall in love but, when Arthur reveals why she woke up, they fall out. As the ship begins to deteriorate for no visible reason, the two have to work together to ensure not only their own survival, but that of the 5,000 other passengers onboard.
Review, by Jason Day
Considering their off-screen personalities, Lawrence’s laid-back, perky charm (only a girl with the moniker J-Law could gracefully recover from an ungraceful tumble on her way to collect an Oscar) and Pratt’s barmy, loud, off-the-wall brand of humour (one of the few American film stars who not only ‘got’ TV chat show host Graham Norton’s impish entendres, matched them and then upped the ante in the cheeky stakes), I was half expecting this sci-fi to bloom into a full-on, interstellar comedy.
That Passengers unfortunately traverses the time-honoured journey of all sci-fi films (a helpful and sly robot/android, an urgent technical problem to fix, lots of explosions, a computer vocalising every stage direction in the script to the point you want to jettison out of your cinema seat) is a huge disappointment.
Given the high quality production values (the ‘infinity interiors’ of the ship resemble the cosmos outside) and some ingenious methods of introducing new levels of suspense in a tired format (Lawrence’s near drowning in sub-gravity water globules that used to be the pool), this makes the standard-feel of the film even more pronounced.
Passengers, in short, is a very ordinary sci-fi wrapped up in the pretensions of a smarter movie.
Pratt and Lawrence make a very attractive and entertaining couple, both rising effortlessly above the plum-rich, uninspired writing (“There’s got to be a reason we both woke up!” Pratt tells Lawrence).
What humour there is, they seize on (Jim’s cosmic customer service enquiry, with an estimated response time of 55 years, is a spot-on crowd pleaser) to give the film that comic value I mentioned before. Left to their own devices, they could have come up with a better script.
Pratt even treats us to a couple of smile raising, naked, beefy nude shots. What a sport!
Sheen as the rictus grinned robot bartender, dementedly cleaning glasses, acts as their psychological counterweight. And like all barmen bored with his lot in life, comes armed with a programme of pithy proverbs and stating the bleedin’ obvious advice.
Laurence Fishbourne is wasted as a ship’s engineer who wakes up solely to tell them and us nothing that two intelligent, inquisitive, bored people wouldn’t have inevitably found out for themselves.
I hope, as I do for Andy Garcia, in a wordless cameo at the end of the film, his pay cheque was worth it.
See the official trailer on the official site.
Cast & credits
Director: Morten Tyldum.
Producers: Stephen Hamel, Michael Maher, Ori Marmur, Neal H. Moritz.
Writer: John Spaihts.
Camera: Rodrigo Prieto.
Music: Thomas Newman.
Sets: Guy Hendrix Dyas.
Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia.