By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – Jennifer Lawrence & Chris Pratt
Genre – Science Fiction > Romance
Run Time – 1 hr 56 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.S.
Oscars – 2 Nominations
Awards – 1 Win & 9 Nominations
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Having NOW TV to help me get through boring, dark and cold January days and nights it has made me realize that just how many films marked down by the critics turn out to be not that bad, Passengers an example of. It was the same for Suicide Squad, Independence Day 2 and Batman V Superman, films I was put off by those critics and didn’t watch because of. But on NOW TV you can watch the first half hour of those films and bail out if they are crap. They are not. There seems to be a snobbery developing in the broadsheet critic industry towards the growing number of big budget action movies out there. The number of those films is growing because of online pirating, not because of lack of ideas. Studios are losing billions and so have to make films that make a big profit and appeal to a wider audience, if just to help subsidize the films the critics prefer, the mid to low budget indies. That’s the only way the Black Panther movie would get made.
Passengers was hurt by the universal panning by those critics and its big budget $110m that got Jenifer Lawrence on board pulled back far less than what they wanted, or deserved, at $330 million. This is a solid and atmospheric film that was unfairly treated and should have made $500 million. It’s better than a lot of films that did that money. See it for yourself and decide. You will enjoy it if you love Sci-Fi, a sort of Titanic in space.
• Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane, a writer
• Chris Pratt as Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer
• Michael Sheen as Arthur, an android bartender on the Avalon
• Laurence Fishburne as Chief Gus Mancuso, the chief deck officer
• Andy García as Captain Norris (non-speaking cameo)
In the far distant future the starship Avalon is transporting 5,000 colonists and 258 crew members in hibernation pods to the planet Homestead II, a journey taking 120 years.
The voyage is serene and peaceful in deep space as the fully automated ship deals with all the problems it will encounter for that century plus. But it wasn’t expecting an asteroid belt and although the shield holds out one rock gets through and causes a malfunction or two as the ship quickly self-repairs. One of those computer malfunctions awakens a sole passenger, mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), but 90 years too early, just thirty years into its journey. Oh dear.
Once awoken from his pod he goes through the disorientation affects and then the orientation protocol the other passengers would go through for the final four months before arrival at the homestead planet. Problem is there are no other passengers and crew as he wonders around an empty ship. The automated intercoms instruct him where to go and what to do and answer his questions, hearing the answers he does not want to hear. When the information point tells him he has awoken 90-years early, and he can’t go back into cryo sleep, he quickly realizes he is alone in the middle of space and so a dead man walking.
Well he is almost alone. There are 5000 pods after all. There is also an android barman (Michael Sheen) who likes making conversation and maybe Jim’s new best friend for the next 90-years. After sending a distress email back to Earth on his forlorn situation he is informed it will cost $6000 dollars to send the electronic mail and take 18-years to reach Earth – and the reply back another 18 years. It’s not looking good as far as help goes.
So what to do now? He tries to see if it’s possible to go back to cryo and wake up 90-years later. Computer says no. Apparently it’s not possible. He tries to wake up the crew but can’t get through the re-enforced doors of the crew quarters. What he can do is enjoy the ship and all it has to offer from now on in. But as he paid economy he can’t enjoy much, the cafeteria meals bland on his pass level and free virtual reality interactive experiences boring after a while. The tethered spacewalk is cool though and the best opportunity to end it all if he can’t face being alone for the rest of his life.
After a year of isolation, bearded and broken, Jim grows despondent and contemplates that suicide. But one day in the cryo-bay he notices a pretty girl in a pod. Her name is Aurora (Jennifer Connelly). He watches her video profile in the human resources department and is quickly smitten. She keeps him going over the next few weeks with her bio tapes, a smart, sexy and interesting girl. Then he does what most people would in that situation – choose his company carefully and, after struggling with the morality of what he is about to do, he manually revives Aurora.
Wandering around disorientated she sees Jim, the situation explained to her by Jim, claiming her pod also must have malfunctioned. Aurora, as he was, is devastated at first that she will grow old and die before the ship reaches Homestead II. Her attempts to re-enter hibernation are fruitless, as were Jim’s, of course. Eventually, over time, she accepts her situation and begins to warm to Jim and writing a book about her experiences. But the ships glitches are increasing since the meteor impact and they may not have to wait those 90-years after all.
I cannot understand the low ratings by the critics on this film. It’s good fun, great looking and interesting. Ok, the plot has as many holes as the deflector shields after the meteor impact but it is science-fiction and so that’s allowed although the romance also unconvincing. The critics are just plain mean with what is quite an original and atmospheric idea. The film acts as metaphor for loneliness as well as it being a good looking and interesting piece of science fiction and so also worthy of extra kudos there.
It’s a cross between Silent Running and Blue Lagoon (ask your parents) and engaging from the off. Within 20 minutes of watching this there is no sign of that bad movie you were told about. It looks gorgeous and some good ideas entertained here, like the commercial aspect of long distant spaceflight, as we see with Elon Musk, not that far away.
Jennifer Lawrence is sexy as ever in that girl next door way although shock horror no Bradley Cooper, the two generally inseparable in Oscar season. She is classy actress and can turn her hand to anything and has the sexist body. Chris Pratt is good although no real chemistry between the two in the film.
The twist is pretty obvious, as is the moment handled well he has to break the bad news to Aurora of his dirty deed. But, as I say, we would all do the same thing in his situation after a while. I think that emotional side of the film is interesting. There are also some profound beautiful moments in the cinematography, like when he takes his first spacewalk all alone. Everything about this film is original and I will give it four stars for that alone. You will enjoy this film, especially if you go into it with the critic’s low expectations.
IMDb.com – 7.0/10.0 (261,245votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 31% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 41% critic’s approval
Pittsburgh City Paper –’Like a Titanic in space, Passengers is a rare combination of genres’.
The Times –’Lawrence is, once more, simply great in this, just so vivid and fascinating to watch, her idiosyncratic face our total focus, her athleticism outdoing Pratt’s: she is completely the life of the film’.
London Evening Standard –’To say that Passengers is a disappointment does not quite capture the lazy surface-gloss inanity that defines so much of it’.
Times (India) –’Derivative but perfectly watchable and rather luxurious …’
Peter Bradshaw –’Who knows why Mr. Pratt and Ms. Lawrence signed up for this production; still, they’re both pros and they do what they can with the wretched material’.
Wall Street Journal –’Ostensibly we’re supposed to like Pratt and Lawrence together, yet Pratt’s character does something so unforgivable to Lawrence’s at the outset that their ensuing interactions simmer with a mix of horror and disbelief’.
Chicago Reader -‘Passengers is not a good trip. Director Morten Tyldum’s film is a mish-mash of genres and premised on a creepy plot point’.
The Star –’If you go see a movie with your family or significant other on Christmas Day, only suggest Passengers if you hate them’
Flickering Myth –’It’s a great-looking film with an original idea. Watch it for its stars but it won’t have an astronomical impact on you’.