Passengers (2016)

  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Morten Tyldum
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia


The spaceship, Starship Avalon, in its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the “Homestead Colony” and transporting 5,259 people has a malfunction in two of its sleep chambers. As a result two hibernation pods open prematurely and the two people that awoke, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence), are stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from their destination.


  • Loneliness is a poison that can lead to self-destruction or deplorable duplicities. Could you spend the rest of your life alone, fully aware that there is nothing but an endless stretch of days ahead? Would you be so desperate for human companionship that you would knowingly endanger someone’s life to ease that solitude? This dilemma, its implications and consequences are at the heart of Passengers, a love story as sci-fi horror film.

    The film begins as a malfunction overtakes the luxe interstellar spacecraft Avalon, which is three decades into its 120-year journey to a new colony planet named Homestead II. The malfunction prematurely awakens blue-collar mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), one of the 5,000 passengers and 258 crew members aboard the Avalon who are meant to remain in a cryogenic sleep state until several months before they reach their final destination. Jim is aghast to discover that he has 90 years to go and, though takes advantage of the ship’s many amenities on advice of the android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), the desolation begins to erode him.

    With no hope of returning to hibernation and knowing he will die before the Avalon reaches Homestead II, Jim contemplates ending his life…until he sees Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), a fellow passenger in deep sleep with whom he becomes fixated. Looking through her video logs and reading her writings (she’s a journalist undertaking the journey so she can write the first book about the planet), he falls more and more in love with her. The heady combination of love and loneliness compels Jim to rouse the sleeping beauty from her slumber, an act that he knows is unforgivable before, during and after he commits it.

    Many will be put off by the central premise of Jon Spaihts’ screenplay, but it is this ethical conundrum that makes Passengers one of the most intriguing relationship dramas. Indeed, for about two-thirds of the film, Passengers explores the route very rarely taken. Jim has essentially consigned Aurora to her death – Spaihts does not hesitate to call it “murder” late in the narrative – and deprived Aurora of her choice not only to live, but to love. The film raises questions about the nature of love itself – is love borne out of proximity, of lack of choice, of a surplus of loneliness. Is it chemical, conditioning, or a compound of the two?

    Or it could boil down to the fact that Pratt is at his most dashingly irresistible as the lovelorn Jim. Onscreen and offscreen, Pratt has mostly displayed a comic swagger, ready with a quip or cock of an eyebrow, and so there is a brief period of adjustment at the outset as one wonders if his line readings are comic or dramatic. Yet once Jim’s despair sets in and the main narrative unfolds, Pratt grounds Jim with a melancholy and intent that renders Jim’s actions understandable, if still unforgivable. Lawrence conveys Aurora’s ensuing fury and indignation with shattering palpability.

    Which makes it infuriating when Passengers essentially becomes Titanic in space in its third act. There are films that can survive disastrous final stretches, but Passengers is not one of them. Its thorny narrative is not meant for easy resolutions and, by taking this direction, it dumbs down the provocative morass it has engagingly crafted.

    Director Morten Tyldum frames the action in Kubrickian compositions replete with unsettlingly cavernous spaces. This is a film that may have used a bit more claustrophobia, which is partially why a sequence that finds Aurora trapped in the swimming pool as the ship suffers a lapse in gravity is so stunning. Another, wherein Jim pleads with Aurora over the loudspeakers, is all the more chilling for the image of Aurora on the surveillance monitor, literally trapped with no hope of escape.

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  • Jennifer Lawrence is a big movie star. Chris Pratt is a newly appointed movie star. With the exception of Michael Sheen playing an android and Laurence Fishburne making a brief appearance as a Chief Deck Officer, they are the only two players featured in Passengers (my latest review).

    Morten Tyldum directs Passengers which is sort of like Cast Away in outer space. Just imagine Tom Hanks but with a friend to play with (not a volleyball), unlimited resources of food and water, and freedom from inclement weather. Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar two years ago with 2014’s The Imitation Game. Who would’ve thought he’d be the perfect choice to reinvent the sci-fi wheel. In Passengers, he provides something fresh with his technical efficiency and resplendent attention to detail. There are plenty of nifty space-age gadgets, glossy special effects, and perpetual motion here. The budget of $110 million is well spent for this is a great looking film.

    Notice that I haven’t mentioned Lawrence and Pratt for a whole paragraph. Sorry about that. I mean, they do have decent chemistry as co-stars. JLaw is indeed a solid actress. For most of Passengers, she’s sexy and smoldering, appealing and pinpointed. Then comes the climatic moments in the film when she has to emote via actual peril and distress. Lawrence’s tone feels out of place in these moments. She may be the wrong ingredient for a science fiction thriller (I’ve never seen The Hunger Games so I could be wrong). As for Chris Pratt, well he’s a big thing now, an almost A-lister. He can just go through the motions and get the job done. His screen presence is ample enough to carry Passengers (ha ha). I’ll just call his performance the veritable, Harrison Ford approach.

    Now why am I saying all this is? Well for good reason. The actors/actresses almost take a back seat to Tyldum’s vision. He makes sci-fi coldness and sci-fi gimmickry relevant for this year. His Passengers is Kubrickian, it’s darkened infinitude. In the end, everything pretty much works out. Critics in general have been hard on Passengers for various rationales. Once you see it you’ll agree that they need to lighten up.

    Containing bartender scenes straight from the annals of The Shining, harboring a little humor, and distributed by Columbia Pictures, Passengers chronicles mechanical engineer, Jim Preston (Pratt). Preston is on a spaceship called Avalon. Avalon recently left Earth and is now on course to go to a planet called Homestead II. This journey is going to take 120 years and said ship is carrying over 5000 people. Everyone is sleeping in hibernation pods but here’s the problem: Jim’s pod malfunctions and he wakes 90 years too early. Oops. Preston spends many days keeping himself busy and realizing that he may die on Avalon before it gets to its destination. He gets lonely and against his conscience, decides to wake up another passenger in Aurora Lane (Lawrence). The two of them connect, have some sexy time, and continue to figure out ways to fall back to sleep in their pods. Jim initially doesn’t tell Aurora he sabotaged her life. He selfishly falls for her. First, by reading Aurora’s bio and then by having a face to face meeting with her.

    Essentially, Passengers is a love story with an ending that I wouldn’t have wanted. Hey, whatever. If you are willing to spend the next nine decades with just the girl you dig and a robotic barkeep (spoiler), then more power to ya. A critic on Rotten Tomatoes mentioned that this film had to do with Stockholm syndrome. Yup, he’d be right.

    All in all, Passengers is a flick cut from original cloth. It has been rumored to be based on a book but hey, that’s just rumor. It promotes an upmarket look, a sterile look, and a dreaded feel. Ultimately, this vehicle will keep you interested and on the edge of yearning for hope. Granted, Passengers is not as deep as say Interstellar (another sci-fi film about the passage of time) nor is it strong in terms of its final act. However, you could do a lot worse when it comes to the aspect of holiday viewing. My rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: An entertaining but superficial love story set in space.

    GRADE: B

    SYNOPSIS: Two space travelers are accidentally awakened on their journey to the stars.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Love is in the air (or possibly in the stratosphere) on an intergalactic mission to another world in Morten Tyldum’s space romance fantasy, Passengers. Aboard the spaceship Avalon are our space travelers (and their other 498 passengers). Chris Pratt’s Jim Preston is a mechanical engineer and also the space prince to his sleeping princess, Aurora Lane, a journalist played by Jennifer Lawrence. It does sound like a post-modern day Disney fairy tale, but that’s about as far as it goes.

    On a 120 year mission to colonize another planet and start life anew. Jim is unexpectedly awakened from his hibernation pod 90 years too soon and must now come to terms with his own survival and that of all of his fellow passengers. Trouble arises as the spaceship begins to malfunction and his need for companionship and assistance is handled by his waking female partner. Their attraction builds slowly but it is inevitable…and highly predictable as the film follows its basic boy-meet-girl-in-space formula. Besides, it’s nice company having Mr. Pratt and Ms. Lawrence cast as the misfit lovers is a no-brainer, isn’t it?

    The lead actors have the prerequisite amount of charm and attractiveness to carry the film. They bring authenticity to the roles while also oozing the necessary sex appeal. It is their relationship that is the core of the movie and both actors share the right chemistry. The small cast also includes the scene-stealing Michael Sheen as their faithful bartender and sounding board, Arthur, and Laurence Fishburne as Gus, an officer from the crew.

    The production design by Guy Hendrix Dyas and CGI effects by Erik Nordby and his talented artisans are quite impressive. Visually, the film is stunning, even if script-wise, it all seems like an outer space soap opera dressed to the nines. The screenplay by Jon Spaihts does try to stray from the conventional aspects of a love story, but doesn’t always succeed due to a central moral dilemma set-up that complicates our lovers’ relationship. That aspect never resolves itself clearly. Still, Mr. Tyldum keeps the action moving and the melodramatics at a minimum, that is, until the climactic third act when the plot and action become so far-fetched and strain credibility.

    The film does carry some excess baggage in its desperate yearning to keep its romantic storyline afloat, and although Rodrigo Prieto’s photography does have a graceful hypnotic fluidity with its rolling camera angles, Passengers is still a rather bumpy ride.

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  • A well-crafted romantic drama which keeps you on the edge of your seat for both the relationship and the drama.

    Passengers is a movie without secrets. You see in the very beginning what happened and things develop from there. Screenwriter Jon Spaihts tells the story very well. The suspense builds very nicely and although you know how you want it turn out it just doesn’t happen that way all the time. Director Morten Tyldum holds to the story and matches it with pacing that reflects the action.
    There are only four characters in the story with Chris Pratt’s Jim and Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora as the couple the story is about. They both handle the emotions of the story very well and are completely convincing. Laurence Fishurne’s Gus is the only weak aspect of the story. Gus shows up and provides convenient access and information so the story can move to it’s climax but Fishburne pulls it off believably. Michael Sheen’s Arthur is witty, vacuous, and, ultimately true.
    I give Passengers 4 ½ clean glasses out of 5. Even with the weakness of the Gus character, this is still an entertaining and enjoyable movie. And it’s not predictable.

  • “We were woken too soon… Ninety years too soon. We have too go back to sleep. We Can’t !”

    At first, I just tried to ignore this movie and I was hoping I would come across it someday on some television channel during a quiet Saturday night. First of all because I’m not dying to see a movie with Jennifer Lawrence acting in it. Even if the antagonist is played by the charming Chris Pratt. And also because there were a lot of indications that this would be a typical romantic space story. I thought this would be the galactic version of “Titanic”. Only that the spacecraft won’t hit a banal iceberg and those two turtledoves won’t be standing on the bow of the ship while embracing each other intimately with a cosmic wind rustles through their hair. Or maybe a modern version of “Loveboat” (only the dwarf dressed up in a futuristic garb is missing). All in all the romantic drool section wasn’t such a big of a deal. And to my surprise it was more a visual SciFi spectacle than a love story about two remaining passengers spending the rest of their days on a luxurious spacecraft.

    To be honest, the first part was both fascinating and wonderfully humorous. The spaceship looked impressive. The first images of the huge dormitory where all pods are standing in which thousands of passengers are sleeping an artificial sleep, were mind blowing. They are on their way, along with a few hundred crew members, to a better place to found a new colony. When a comet storm throws a spanner in the works, it’s Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) who first wakes up. Unfortunately for him it’ll still take 90 years before they reach their final destination. That’s the beginning of the more humorous part. Not high quality humor, but still good enough for a few chuckle moments. The way Jim spends his free time and his entertaining conversations with Arthur (Michael Sheen), a robotic bartender, provide some funny moments. And all this takes place in beautifully constructed sets and breathtaking interiors. One thing is certain, they spared no expense when designing this gigantic spaceship.

    Of course, gradually the excitement disappears and is replaced by a more profound atmosphere, wherein feelings of loneliness surface and doubts arise about the meaning of a further solitary existence. Time to provide Jim with a feminine counterbalance. That’s when Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) enters the scene. In terms of good looks, both of them belong together Tinder-wise. Them having beautiful children is written in the stars. Well, this is the beginning of the romantic chapter in which both start to scan each other meticulously and carefully, start to know each other better and finally in terms of intimacy are a perfect match. Despite my fear, the romance part remained fairly limited. The only thing I noticed is that Jennifer Lawrence hasn’t only grown what acting concerns. Either there were some hormonal changes or there has been a medical intervention. Something I noticed immediately. However, her acting part was rather limited. It seemed as if they gave Jim the most sensual female toy from the entire crew. Of course an obligated pool scene had to be included I guess. Although, it looked extremely spectacular (and no I’m not talking about the feminine curves of J. Lawrence) due to a malfunctioning artificial gravity.

    And then it’s time to start the action-packed part with also a short performance by Laurence Fishburne and some impressive CGI sequences. Sometimes it made me think of “Gravity” and “The Martian”, but that didn’t really bother me. You see, it’s kind of a mixture of different genres. The most vulnerable part of the film is the limited cast (ultimately it’s only Jim and Aurora you’ll see). To be honest, nothing wrong can be said about their performances and indeed there’s a chemistry between the two protagonists. The only thing I was disappointed about is the way the moral issue is swept under the table in a cheap and easy way. The moment this became a problematic and delicate subject, they increased the action and it disappeared into the background. What a shame because this moral issue was more interesting than the clichéd action section. Would he have done this to me, I would have kicked his ass into infinite space for sure. But despite this chapter full of moderate, predictable action and a romanticized ending, this movie appealed to me. I’m glad I didn’t wait to see it on the small screen, but now I could enjoy its greatness in the cinema. And no, I’m not talking about J. Lawrence again!

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