Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Please be aware this review contains spoilers – it is near impossible to talk about this film properly without them!
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. (Source: IMDb)
There were some concerns that this film was very much being sold on the star-power of its two leads, and, well we’ll get to that later! For a film that’s marketing campaign entirely centred around the aesthetics, then in this sense it succeeds at delivering what it promises. Visually, Passengers is quite impressive, and the production design is immaculate and finely-tuned. The Avalon spaceship which provides the singular setting for the film, quite rightly feels like a living breathing thing, and the film is at its best when it is exploring all the corners of this luxurious and high-tech space palace.
Performance wise, Chris Pratt actually does a really great job, and whilst there are some glaring moral discrepancies with his actual character, Pratt is able to sell it for the most part. It is slightly conflicting for the audience however as the decisions undertaken by the character are incredibly questionable, and you might feel ever so slightly guilty for liking this character, but the film-makers don’t seem to care about the moral grey-area, so it is really no fault of Pratt’s for playing it this way. As attentive android Arthur, Michael Sheen is pretty solid as well, although it is hardly a character worthy of this actor’s talents. It is a shame that Sheen’s perhaps last screen role will be in a film as terrible as this one, but the quality of the film is in no way a reflection of his performance or of him as an actor, and he does a pretty great job with what he has to work with.
So yes, subtle spoiler in the end of that last paragraph, but this film is really quite terrible. Whilst the premise is interesting, it is never able to progress much beyond its concept, and the longer it drags on, the more it will push your ability to suspend your disbelief until ultimately you reach breaking point.
It is a film which is laboured and drawn out in its set up, ambling and meandering towards a final third act in such a sluggish way that by the time it eventually rolls around, you’ll be past the point of caring. The third act also seems to come completely out of nowhere, is inconceivably dumb, and just feels so, so lazy and tacked on. It is so frustratingly focused on the aesthetics that it forgets it needs to be anything more than just pretty to look at. It’s beautiful people looking very beautiful in beautiful sets, but it is completely lacking in anything between the ears. It is dumbed-down sci-fi of the absolute highest order, and this isn’t even the worst thing about it!
As alluded to earlier, there are some very questionable moral decisions made by the characters in this film which prove to be a very difficult pill to swallow, and perhaps the biggest concern is much of this would wash over people as they’re distracted by the pretty design, effects, and the big star leads. The trailer would have you believe that Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratts’ characters awake at the same time and race against time to save the spaceship. So spoiler warning again, this isn’t the case at all. Chris Pratt’s Jim is awoken by mistake and then when loneliness creeps in, and after becoming borderline obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora, he decides to wake her up so he can have a companion, effectively ending her life and chances of a future for his own quite frankly selfish means. Where the film would have you believe that this is a beautiful love story set in space, it is actually a pretty creepy and unsettling case of Stockholm Syndrome, as Aurora really is given no choice whatsoever to fall in love with Jim, and even when she discovers the truth, it ultimately makes no difference whatsoever. Yeah. Kind of not okay with this one!
Aside from Pratt and Sheen, the rest of the performances are dire. Laurence Fishburne shows up to do absolutely nothing but phone it in, when the film is already beyond saving, and Jennifer Lawrence gives an equally stilted and phoned in performance. Pratt and Lawrence are two of the most charismatic actors working today and whilst many were excited about seeing them on screen together, they are disappointingly devoid of all chemistry together. In this case, putting together two incredibly magnetic performers, forces them to repel rather than attract. With their relationship already slightly on the non-consensual side, the fact it is lacking in all believable chemistry makes it even more of an uncomfortable watch than it was already.
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Passengers is an absolute dud, quite rightly nestled in the tail-end of the year when everyone else is distracted by Star Wars and Christmas. Its star power does absolutely nothing to save it; it’s boring, dumb, unsettling, and its wholly questionable plot will leave the sourest of tastes. It promised to be one of the most intriguing films of the year, and actually ends up being one of the worst. Give this one a miss!