Contrary to the popular axiom that three is a crowd, when it comes to the world of stage and screen, three is considered very much the thing to do. Apparently, you, the viewing public, are much happier when three people are on screen instead of just two, stories generally work better too. How this applies to Passengers we will discover shortly.
Passengers, as I’m sure you’re all aware, is about the starship Avalon which is on a 120-year voyage to a new colonised planet known as Homestead II. Homestead being the company that you buy this space voyage from, the ‘owners’ of the new planet and the starship.
On board the ship are over 5,000 passengers and just a couple of hundred crew, all of them in hibernated sleep for the entire journey, to be awakened just a few months before touchdown. When two of the hibernation chambers malfunction, Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), and Aurora Dunn, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games movies, Silver Linings Playbook) are woken up…90 years early.
Reviewing this film without giving too much away is difficult so if I don’t go into detail you’ll excuse me. Writer Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) has done an excellent job of creating a love story with bags of drama and a hint of sci-fi thrown in too. He adds to the ‘aloneness’ of it all by bringing in an android (all the best space movies have an android, right?). This android is a bartender who goes by the name of Arthur, played by Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Underworld), who, as with all best bartenders, dishes out advice to our lonesome space travellers and moves the film on very nicely thank you.
Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters) shows us exactly what we need to see and when. The use of CGI is brilliant and Tyldum shows us the expanse of space and a vast ship which amplifies the loneliness our duo must deal with. We even get a few little nods to a ‘class’ system with Preston only able to order mediocre food from the vending machines whereas Dunn is ‘gold class’ and can order the best.
Perhaps the biggest thing about Passengers though is the on-screen chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence. The couple work very well together, bouncing when they need to bounce and moving together when the need arises. They take you through a gamut of emotions throughout as you witness the turmoil they experience, in fact, we get to witness some of it twice…
Both Pratt and Lawrence excel in their roles as Passengers on the Avalon whilst, despite Sheen being confined to the bar area (he has no legs but can zip around behind the bar) he is almost key to what we see on screen, you could think of him as our narrator, without the voiceover.
What both Tyldum and Spaihts have got right with Passengers is there’s no moment where you think “oh come on, as if”. (Well, perhaps there’s one, very slight one, but it is a love story so we’ll let it slide.) This is rare in a Hollywood movie these days, particularly one that involves an element of sci-fi so to keep things on the straight and narrow, believable – relatively speaking, is excellent work. If they had strayed it would have taken you away from the romance happening on screen and that wouldn’t have been good.
Passengers is a very good film, it’s a romance first and foremost so don’t get upset if you expect to see Event Horizon or something. It is, again relatively speaking, grounded, believable, lovely and damn good fun.