Passengers (M)

In a Word: Engaging

Passengers

IN THE FUTURE: Chris Pratt plays mechanic Jim Preston and Jennifer Lawrence plays writer Aurora Lane, both trapped aboard a spaceship on a 120 year journey to a new home.

"Visually slick, Passengers is an engaging exploration of our need for community set against the backdrop of humanity’s expansion across the universe (all facilitated by a faceless mega-corporation – just try getting them on the phone when you have a complaint!). It's not quite 'Cast Away' in space - there's not the same level of the intense psychological depth of the Tom Hanks film here - but there are some similarities." 

Science fiction often uses the future as the canvas upon which to paint a picture exploring what life’s really all about and Passengers is no exception.

Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) is a mechanic who’s opted for a new start in life by setting out with some 5,000 others on a 120 year journey to the idyllic new world of Homestead II. Like the rest of the passengers (and crew), Preston has been put into a state of suspended animation for the journey and will be woken up when the ship – the Avalon – is just four months away.

But the ship encounters an asteroid field along the way and, his hibernation pod malfunctioning, Preston is woken from his sleep some 90 years too early. Trapped on what resembles the utopian world of a luxurious cruise liner, unable to access the crew and too far from Earth or his destination to get timely help, he struggles to come to terms with his isolation, pouring out his troubles out to his only friend, an android bartender called Arthur (Michael Sheen).

Initially he takes advantage of his 'access all areas' on the ship but one can only play so many games of basketball on your own and, after a couple of years, Preston is losing his mind. In a desperate move which is months in the planning but only moments in the execution, he decides to wake up a fellow passenger, writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

At first things go to plan and, unaware of how she came to be awake – believing it to be another malfunction, Lane becomes the companion Preston hoped for. But, of course, it doesn’t last and the two soon find themselves fighting for the survival of all on board.

Visually slick, Passengers is an engaging exploration of our need for community set against the backdrop of humanity’s expansion across the universe (all facilitated by a faceless mega-corporation – just try getting them on the phone when you have a complaint!). It's not quite 'Cast Away' in space - there's not the same level of the intense psychological depth of the Tom Hanks film here - but there are some similarities.

As one would imagine, director Morten Tyldum has ensured there’s some interesting visual effects – swimming in no gravity, anyone?, the odd moment of humour (thanks, Arthur) and that the pace is about right. The casting is generally well done – Pratt is good choice for the hands-on tinker Preston, Michael Sheen always plays the oddball well and Lawrence also puts in a solid, if not outstanding, showing. Laurence Fishburne also makes a brief appearance but not as brief as the ship’s captain, played by Andy Garcia, whose appearance is a little jarring to say the least.

There’s a few moments which remind us we’re watching a movie – such as the repeated (and somewhat idiotic) statement that the hibernation pods never break down (maybe meant as an indictment of the recklessness of corporations but it comes across as a little silly at times) – and there’s no major plot surprises, but all-in-all this is a well put together film which touches on the essence of what life's really all about.