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Passengers – film review

January 6, 2017

PASSENGERS

The first great adult-oriented sci-fi film of the year.

Reviewed on Monday 2nd January 2017

passengers

Directed by Morten Tyldum. Written by Jon Spaihts. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Running time: 116 mins.

Jim Preston, a colonist travelling to a distant planet, awakens from hypersleep aboard an automated starship to fnd he has been awakened ninety years too soon. Without any hope of returning to hypersleep, Jim faces the awful prospect of living out the rest of his life alone; a castaway in space.

A highly-regarded screenplay un-flmed for almost a decade, Passengers was the writing sample which persuaded Ridley Scott to hire the hot young screenwriter       Jon Spaihts to initially develop the Alien prequel; substantially re-tooled by Damon Lindelof to eventually become the debacle that was Prometheus in 2012. Having read and quite enjoyed Spaihts’ original draft for Alien: Engineers (after it was leaked soon after the release of Scott’s Prometheus), I was intrigued to go see Passengers based purely on the fact Spaihts was the originator of the material.

The opening half hour or so beautifully conveys the deep sense of isolation and despair Chris Pratt’s everyman mechanic Jim Preston experiences upon realizing     he is fated to live and die alone aboard a starship of sleepers. With the hypersleep revival of the Jennifer Lawrence character – an aspiring young journalist named Aurora Lane; planning on writing about her round trip to the colonies, the film becomes less a study of isolation and more a traditional romance – albeit one which explores a fascinating quandary.

This revival of Aurora presents the Chris Pratt character with a compelling moral dilemma which lies at the very heart of this story; a dramatic aspect which is explored with unfinching honesty to the extent where our sympathy for Pratt’s character is (uncharacteristically for a contemporary big budget Hollywood movie) threatened. There are some who have felt the exploration of this dilemma is somewhat unsavory. But I feel, in this respect, these detractors have missed the point and this flm should be appreciated for daring to go out on a limb and not just treading the safe and easy (and bland) path of most Hollywood fare. Indeed, I can foresee people heatedly debating the moral implications this film presents in the decades to come (much like the future debates I imagine regarding Amy Adams’ equally divisive moral choices in the recent Arrival). A traditional romance such as Passengers either works or it doesn’t based purely on the chemistry (or lack thereof) between the two leads. And thankfully the on-screen chemistry between Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence is very much in evidence. Having never seen any of Jennifer Lawrence’s previous work, I was unaware just how talented a performer she really is. And Chris Pratt (another actor I’ve also never had an opinion of one way or another) is also very good.

Jon Spaihts’ keenly-wrought screenplay presents characters whose motivations we can understand. While Norwegian helmer Morten Tyldum demonstrates he is equally adept at staging thrilling action sequences as he is eliciting strong performances from his stars. And the stunning sets and visual effects depicting the enormity of the starship Avalon, as she traverses the vastness of space; truly demand this flm be seen on the largest screen possible.

Passengers is an emotionally authentic romance as well as being a thrilling survival tale which, like all great sci-fi, has something relevant to say about the human condition. Oh and it might just be the perfect date movie too; with plenty to discuss over that post screening coffee.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, January 2nd 2017

Greg Moss is a flm school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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4 Comments
  1. This must be the first positive review I’ve seen for this. You make it look an interesting proposition. As a sci-fi film it was clearly released too close to Rogue One to really have much success at the box office- and the trailer makes it look like a sci-fi Titanic which certainly turned me off. Perhaps it will get a second life and reappraisal when it reaches home formats. Nice review again.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks Ian! Like I do with every film – I tend to shy away from reviews before I see them and judge them on their own merits – as they unspool. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.

  2. I left the theatre feeling frustrated by ‘what could have been’ in this film. But you have definitely persuaded me to give this film a second watch on DVD!

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