All the ingredients for this big, blockbuster festive film suggest a box office success. A talented director (Morten Tyldum), a screenplay sitting on the sought after “Blacklist” (a list of the best screenplays yet to be adapted) and two eminently bankable leads in Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. You must wonder though whether anybody read the screenplay for Passengers before putting it on the Blacklist because all the bells and whistles in the world cannot make up for bad writing.
Passengers is, unfortunately, mind-numbingly dull. The trailer was a trailer for a great film but this film was not it. For the first twenty-five minutes, we have an intriguing film. Pratt’s engineer Jim Preston is awoken from cryogenic sleep 90 years early after a malfunction. At first, he has the run of the ship, including breaking into an executive suite and has some fun with it. It isn’t long though, until he begins going quietly mad with only a bartending android played by Michael Sheen and the invisible presence of his own mortality to keep him company.
We have smart little nods to Bladerunner, Alien, The Shining and Silent Running all in that first 25 minutes and a reference to Danny Boyle’s Sunshine later in the film, when my interest had begun to disappear. All wonderful films. Always interesting.
Passengers gives us the tease of something interesting. It goes no further.
I waited not far short of two hours for something to happen and it never did. It is a massive disappointment. A film without depth, the courage of its convictions or the ability to effectively utilize the exceptional talents of the people involved.
The immorality of Jim essentially dooming Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) to his fate – by deliberately waking her from cryosleep early – just for human companionship is never tackled effectively. As is said in the film, a drowning man attempting to drag someone else down with him. It is a creepy act from a man mentally damaged by a horrible situation. The great shame is that the three sentences I have done a better job tackling the morality or lack thereof than the film ever even threatens to do.
Moreover, none of it makes much sense at all. At one point Laurence Fishburne shows up and the film promises a twist, just like the trailer. Instead one of the finest screen actors in the world is gone within about ten minutes and his reasons for even being there are unfathomable. Although, not as unfathomable as Andy Garcia’s 20 second cameo at the film’s conclusion wearing an expression that can only be described as “where’s the cheque?”
Worst of all is that central act – Jim waking Aurora – which should, in theory underpin the whole story. Jim becomes enamoured and obsessed with Aurora in what can only be described as interstellar social media stalking. Watching her videos and pining over her image over and over. His decision to wake her up is essentially an act of violence, one even briefly referred to as “murder” by Aurora herself.
Rather than wrestle with the unsettling behavior of Pratt’s protagonist, who is more of an antagonist, the film chooses to soften and obscure that with an unrealistic, seen-it-all-before Hollywood love story. Rather than being a dark and intriguing film delving deep into disturbing social media obsessions and male sexual violence, it becomes an unintentionally unsettling fantasy of a man with a captor – prisoner fetish.
My advice: Go and buy once of the many superior films referenced in Passengers, on home cinema rather than wasting the money on seeing the film itself.