Saturday, 24 December 2016

Passengers: Film Review

Passengers: Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Morten Tyldum

They say in space, no-one can hear you scream.

And that's perhaps a good thing, given that Morten Tyldum's space romance has a major twist in its tail, that was unshown in trailers and leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.

Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt plays engineer Jim Preston, who's in deep sleep on board the SS Aurora along with 5,000 other passengers. When his suspended animation pod malfunctions, he wakes up in the middle of the journey with no clue why. The real kicker is that the ship won't arrive at its destination, the newer version of Earth aka Homestead II, for another 90 years, effectively condemning him to death.

Stuck alone on the ship with no human interaction - the sole character Preston has to deal with is Michael Sheen's android bartender, Preston starts to go slowly mad as the reality of the situation kicks in - and he faces a moral dilemma - wake another passenger and condemn them to the same fate or spend a lifetime alone...

With production values that really reflect the space age look to a tee, and the loneliness of space is certainly evident early on in the piece as the ship hurtles to its destination and begins to malfunction.

Tyldum uses Pratt's charisma to great effect and showcases it well, with montages of the humdrum nature of his ship bound life setting the scenes excellently. But Pratt's charisma can only go so far - and while his interactions with Sheen are brilliantly dry, smarmy and deadpan, it takes the appearance of Jennifer Lawrence to really fire the dramatic spark that's needed.

Unfortunately, that spark is somewhat dimmed by the glossing over of the moral dilemma and the creepy state of affairs as this space-set ode to Stockholm Syndrome progresses. Tyldum and the script's desire to gloss over the implications of the decision that's made by the idealistic and desperate Preston prove to be slightly fatal in the ultimate wash.

There's something here about class divides as Lawrence's Aurora is clearly a step above Preston's engineer; from the quality of breakfasts she's doled out by the automated vending machines (standing in contrast to Pratt's faceless weetbix style lumps) to the quality of life, the writers could have made more of the divide between the two, rather than playing on the easy chemistry between the pair which isn't enough to weight the story.

Complete with narrative conveniences, such as malfunctions for no real reason and a sci-fi setting that's primarily doused in soapy romance rather than sci-fact, Passengers is only just a trip worth taking because of Pratt and Lawrence. It's their interaction in the coldness of space that just about will convince the romantic dreamers of the audience.

But for a high concept film, it fails to deliver on its premise unfortunately and relies on one moment that will polarise any rational member of the audience. Not exactly a disaster, but nowhere near a success, it remains a frustrating experience.

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