Passengers – 2016
Director Morten Tyldum
Screenplay Jon Spaihts
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Michael Sheen
Passengers is the kind of ride that would have been more interesting if it had been made in a time that didn’t require clean resolutions to its stories. The story starts with the moral philosophy question of what would one do if facing the prospect of a Desert Island existence when given the prospect of expanding their misery to someone else in order to split the difference together. From there it makes a choice and the viewer gets to see the evolution of its consequences. Just when it begins to get interesting, we are reminded that test audiences want to see point A go to point B rather than drifting off into infinity.
Jim Preston (Pratt) is an engineer whose hibernation ends prematurely on a near 130 year journey across the galaxy to a new planet. Why does this happen to him and no one else? We get a character who is at least as curious as we are, until we get to see him turn into Tandy from The Last Man on Earth, space version. He grows a horrible prop beard – so distracting it made one wonder what kind of beast it originally grew on. He has only limited means to live on until he starts getting creative. Jim has a relationship with an android bartender, off which to bounce ideas and with which he attempts to reason.
It’s not enough though.
The performance is a gentle expansion of range for Pratt, and for the most part he hits it. Jennifer Lawrence acts at about 3/4 speed, making sure she hits all of her marks in the most obvious way possible. Not saying she does anything wrong, rather it’s clear this script was written by someone who has less experience being a woman than she does. The name she is assigned – Aurora Lane – should have been the first indication of a struggle to understand.
Martin Sheen’s android Arthur is interesting as much for what he doesn’t offer as for what he does. The film ultimately misses a major opportunity making him closer to a toaster than to K2SO.
The last 1/3 of the film is a mess. Going from the social conundrum to a full fledged connect the dots action film. Who’s going where and why literally amounts to a search through a large warehouse for stuff that may or may not be working. This warehouse is made less interesting for the fact that they take all of about 30 seconds searching.
Sure, one could watch this on a Sunday afternoon and hope against hope that our protagonists unite and maybe start a colony of their own. What they do is unexplainable, half because by the end it’s jumpy, screamy and fiery to an obnoxious degree. How much you like this film should translate to exactly how much you desire formula.
(*** out of *****)