Movie Review: ‘Passengers’ Could Have Been A Great Movie

‘Passengers’ opens with a really interesting premise. In the future, we have developed a way to travel across the galaxy at light speed and in suspended animation. So, a company called Homestead has apparently begun colonizing worlds and sending people from earth to these worlds in hibernation pods. In these pods they stay preserved in their existing form until their arrival 120 years after their departure. So far so much like just about every other futuristic space travel movie.

Where the movie begins to deviate is in its depiction of a lost passenger and a decision he makes that might just be the immoral act that even the best of people could commit. This is because at about the 30 year mark (of the 120 year trip) a man named Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) gets shook awake in his pod. He is the only one awake and he is stuck in purgatory for 90 years. It is a death sentence that is dealt from the cosmos or god (if you are so inclined). Now, this death sentence is filled with a giant mall of a ship and a few fun things to do (space walk, play basketball, dance video games).

However, for every little positive their is a devastating negative. He also is a 3rd Class passenger and gets the bare rations each morning, has no access to any area that would be important, and has zero contact with another human being (he does have an antiquated robot to talk to played by Michael Sheen). Eventually, Jim begins to grow tremendously depressed and nearly pushes a button to pull him out into the vacuum of space. It is at this moment that he comes across the pod of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). She is a writer from New York and his connection with her through her writing and video logs saves his life.

It also causes him to fall in love with her and entertain the idea of waking her up. Now, lets think about this for a second. You are trapped on a ship and will ultimately die alone after being trapped in a box that you can’t escape. Or you can wake someone up and not be alone for the rest of your life. What would you do? I would like to say that I would have the self control to not ruin someone else’s life because I was drowning, but what if that other person could save my life by helping me stay afloat. I’m taking their life into my own hands. That’s the interesting question that is laid before the audience and our protagonist.

The resolution leads to a number of other interesting questions and some charming chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence, but really plays the whole thing as by the books as it can. It takes little risk and wraps everything to neatly. Not to mention that the movie seems to answer the question that it’s asked and by doing so might leave audiences less inclined to ponder the interesting questions and more likely to wonder if the movie is condoning Stockholm Syndrome.

Still, it is impossible to deny that this film is entertaining. Pratt and Lawrence are wonderful actors. The ship design is quite inspired. The small supporting cast is universally outstanding, and Thomas Newman’s score is beautiful as usual. So, while I have my issues and I think this largely fails to live up to its premise, I enjoyed the film. It was an interesting concept that left me thinking about the moral ramifications of it and I had an enjoyable time watching it. Could the ending have been 100% better? Hell yes, I can tell you an insanely better ending, but I still enjoyed the film. Rental, but I enjoyed it.

Nathan Ligon

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