Passengers – Movie Review

If you’ve followed me any length of time, you know I love science fiction, especially Doctor Who, so a movie about two people on a colony ship who wake up way too early is definitely in my wheelhouse.  I really wanted to check this one out in the theaters back in December but just didn’t make it out but thanks to my local RedBox, I finally got the chance to check out this sci-fi/romance and while it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it.  Let’s get into it!

Passengers follows the lives of two would-be colonists on the spaceship Avalon, as they deal with life alone after they wake up with 90ish years left in their 120 year journey. Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanic, and I have to say, I really enjoyed Pratt’s performance here.  The film opens with him waking up in his hibernation pod and blindly following the instructions of the pre-programmed computer.  After a little bit, Preston begins to suspect something might be wrong and as he investigates he discovers just how wrong things are. I loved the way the movie carries Preston through the first 20 minutes of this film. I could have watched just that as a stand alone short film. Using Preston’s hair growth, degrading personal hygiene, and decent into alcoholism as a way of showing the passage of time is used incredibly well by the film makers.  Seeing Preston try every single thing he can think of to address his situation only to continually fail, imparts a true sense of hopelessness to the audience.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Aurora Lane who is the second passenger to wake up on the Avalon.  Just like Pratt, Lawrence gives an enjoyable and very believable performance.  Her character initially follows a similar arc to that of Preston and then later on in the movie takes a hard turn for reasons I won’t spoil here.  Pratt and Lawrence have great chemistry together, which is honestly unsurprising given the talent they each bring to the table, and seeing their relation ship ebb and flow through out the movie is fantastic.

Speaking about the ebb and flow of this movie, I do feel that some may find the overall pacing to be slow, like really slow, I think that may have been a deliberate choice by the filmmakers to help accentuate the situation that the characters find themselves in.  Passengers clocks in and just under two hours with credits but looking back and thinking through the film, I can’t think of any scenes that I would cut or shorten.

Given the nature of the plot of Passengers, there’s not a whole lot of supporting cast, there are really just two other people of note in this film.  The first is Michael Sheen who gives a wonderful performance as the android barkeep, Arthur.  Sheen imbues Arthur with a perfect balance of warm bartender charm but with an undercurrent of being just slightly off human. He kind of reminds me of Michael Fassbender in Prometheus and Alien: CovenantAlso, the design of the bar section itself very closely resembles that of the bar in The Overlook Hotel in The Shining, which gives it a somewhat disquieting feel.  As for the fourth actor, I will leave who that is and what they bring to the movie as a surprise.  I had no idea that this person was in this film and I was incredibly please to see them as their presence and role not only help move the plot along but also raises the overall gravitas of the cast.

I’m sure there are plenty of holes to poke in the science of this movie but there weren’t any holes in it big enough to distract me.  In fact, the pool scene seems incredibly plausible (in that situation of course) and it was riveting to see it play out on screen. Also, the ship design seems sound from what little I know of ship design.  This may not seem like something worth noting but it’s a pet peeve of mine when a movie doesn’t think through it’s science.

I really only have two complaints about Passengers and those are that I hoped there would be a little bit more to the cause of the characters waking up and that the movie wraps up a bit too cleanly for my tastes. I guess from the trailers, I was expecting there to be something a bit more nefarious at play and while one of the characters does do something awful, the movie didn’t go the over all direction that I was thinking it would.  Also, the ending of this movie is incredibly safe and that’s really the only way I could put it.  I did enjoy the ending but I also feel that it could have possibly been better had there been a different inciting incident to kick off the movie and if characters had made different choices in the end.

In the end Passengers is a solid science fiction romance with a somewhat predictable and safe plot but is also bolstered by great performances.

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