Passengers

passengersImagine being stranded on a deserted island. Would you wish for company, even though you knew that that person would then be stranded too? What if you discovered that you had the power to make that dream come true?

Jim (Chris Pratt) faces a futuristic version of this very dilemma in Passengers, director Morten Tyldum’s follow-up to The Imitation Game. Jim, along with 5,000 others, has chosen to leave his life on Earth to start fresh by colonizing a distant planet. When his hibernation pod malfunctions, Jim finds that he has somehow woken up 90 years before the ship is scheduled to reach its destination. Meaning that he will almost certainly die of old age long before he’ll get the chance to even speak to another person.

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The loneliness is palpable but becomes downright excruciating once he discovers that he’s figured out how to wake another passenger. One sleeping beauty in particular has caught his eye. Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), as Jim discovers through extensive research of the ship’s files, is smart, pretty, and funny and seems like the perfect companion for this 90 year voyage.

It’s quite an interesting predicament. What if Tom Hanks had gotten so lonely in Cast Away that he was able to magically sentence Helen Hunt to life on the island with him? Or if James Franco had been able to trap his buddy Seth Rogen under that rock so that he would have some company? Obviously, it’s a pretty shitty thing to do to someone and Jim knows it. He doesn’t take the decision lightly and it’s a tribute to Pratt’s talent that we can feel his struggle enough to forgive him.

Passengers begins to unravel though once Aurora wakes up. A brief meditation on what isolation can do to a person quickly becomes a typical romantic comedy with an atypical setting. Boy meets girl based on a lie. Everything seems to be going great until girl discovers lie. Girl makes up with boy. If you think the fact that Jim’s deception is somewhat more serious than a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days article (“He murdered me,” as Aurora puts it) would alter this formula in any way, unfortunately you’d be disappointed.

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It’s also worth commenting that Jim chooses Aurora for her looks and charm. Yes, she’s actually quite bright but she’s a journalist. Out of 5,000 passengers, you’d think he could have found someone more qualified to help maintain a spaceship for 90 years and maybe even help him figure out how to get back to sleep. She’s clever and tough but still pretty useless once the ships starts to fall apart and Jim the mechanic needs to figure out how to save her and everyone else on board, thus winning back her heart. The cop-out is downright insulting.  Besides, as cinema, watching someone fix a broken spaceship is neither as suspenseful or exciting as you might think.

What many critics panning Passengers won’t tell you is that the first 20-30 minutes are actually quite gripping. From there on it’s pretty much as bad as they say.

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53 thoughts on “Passengers

  1. Paul. Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker

    Good review but I think the bad press is a bit harsh. This is actually a decent sci-fi romance story with a fine moral dilemma at its heart. It could have been trimmed in the middle for pace and should probably have been promoted more as a romance than the action film the trailer seemed to suggest. Of course, there was a missed opportunity because the real drama was overlooked for stupid dance off contests in the middle. But the “gravity-loss in the swimming pool” visuals were incredible and despite a lack of depth it was pretty watchable.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Actually, the gravity loss in the swimming pool was pretty cool both visually and creatively. It was the only special effect that I actually liked in it. I would have found it easier to overlook the missed opportunity of properly exploring its premise had it not ended with his heroics winning her back.

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      1. Paul. Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker

        All good points. I think we’ve been treated to so many dystopian visions of the future with dark endings that it was surprising to have a happy ending. I enjoyed that but agree the film certainly also made me think, “Oh, is that it?” Perhaps they should have woken a few more people up just for a laugh 😉

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      2. Matt Post author

        I thought it might have been cool and not even that depressing if he had died and she realized she couldn’t live alone and that she can no longer judge him for what he did so she wakes up some other hot guy and the cycle continues for 90 years.

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    2. polarbears16

      Yeah definitely, a missed opportunity more than anything else. A very interesting premise and opening act, but the Hollywood-ization of it led to apparent amnesia of the complexity of its premise.

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  2. MovieManJackson

    Well said. I couldn’t get interested enough to write my thoughts but I’d lean towards a C/C-. The start is actually pretty strong, but I too thought there would be more besides a romance and a ship breaking down.

    Also, Lawrence was mediocre to bad in this in my personal opinion. Some of her delivery was surprising. Did like Pratt enough, however.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Yeah, I had so much to say on this that I never really even got around to the acting. It was quite an interesting dynamic between the two actors. I felt like they both did pretty good work through a lot of it especially when they’re monologuing. I did find they seemed unsure how to interact with each other though. In fact, I thought they were badly matched. JLaw did fall short whenever she had to have a crying fit too.

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  3. Harlon

    It’s funny, I had no intention of seeing Passengers as the reviews were pretty horrific, the only reason I saw it was I went to the theatres on Boxing Day and this was the only movie that wasn’t sold out….makes me wonder how much of it’s Box Office Revenue was for that reason. Thankfully it was cheap ticket day so I don’t mind paying $7.99 just to escape. I agree, the concept has potential and it started off OK, I think what bugged me were just the inconsistencies in the plot…I felt like they missed the step where they showed it to a bunch of people and asked “where were the oopsy moments” then re-edited it – it could have been better, but I don’t think it could have been much worse. That’s my $7.99 cents worth. Harlon

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    1. Matt Post author

      As a matter of fact, yes. It’s almost like the movie keeps nervously babbling trying to distract us from the question that they themselves posed at the beginning.

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  4. badblokebob

    I’ve not seen it yet, but I’m now imagining a version where she stays angry with him and they just argue for 90 years. Which it strikes me would probably be the sitcom version.

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  5. Christopher

    The trailer left me with the distinct impression that both were intentionally awake since I couldn’t think of another reason why a shipload of sleeping colonists would need all the accommodations of a luxury cruise.
    Given the horrifying implications of entrapment as a tool of seduction the trailer was probably intentionally misleading.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Oh, they actually cover that without making too big a deal of it. Everyone is set to wake up four months before they arrive at their new home, during which time they will be will be… I forget. But yeah, so I guess four months of resources for 5,000 could sustain two people for 40 or 50 which is probably correct. What’s weird is the movie never addresses the problem with living it up on food and resources that’s supposed to keep everyone else alive when they wake up.

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  6. Liz A.

    There was a great Twitter thread on this the other day. It was pretty much aghast at the idea that he basically murdered her (albeit in a very slow fashion). I think I agree–that is a pretty awful thing to do without her consent and all. But this premise sounds like a great what if…

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    1. Matt Post author

      The thing is, yeah, it’s clearly wrong but I think the movie does do a very good job (at first) of making us wonder what we would do in his situation.

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  7. reocochran

    I really liked this movie, for action and great sets, for the realistic love story showing flawed human beings. I know it won’t win top awards but it was very entertaining. My daughter, age 31, loved it and compared it to “The Notebook” in romantic context.

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  8. Birgit

    So what you are saying is when the dick is up, his brains are up his ass ( my Oma’s saying). I didn’t know he woke her up and then he wakes up someone he likes rather than someone he can talk to about keeping the ships going. It still sounds like something I will see but on video.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Well, I have never heard it put quite like that (though I love it) but yeah, kind of. To be fair, he also watches a lot of video interviews with her while she’s sleeping and finds her quite personable and witty too. I do object to the only female character’s sole function being a companion though.

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      1. Jay

        Well, but the other way is worse.
        In the olden days we used to pick a wife with a strong back for working in the field and wide birthing hips for lots of childbearing. Now we look for personality\ love match, which is what he did. Maybe not great for survival, but most of us don’t choose partners based on their usefulness anymore.

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  9. Natasha

    So what Passengers tries to bring across is that you don’t have to be really smart, just be really pretty. What a time to be alive.

    Hoped this would be good, but I’m just seeing bad press about it. meh.

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  10. J.

    Disappointing. I thought this looked pretty good from the trailer. Time would perhaps be better spent checking out Air, which explores a similar theme but lacks the romance. Or at least it sounds similar.

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      1. J.

        It’s pretty good. Check Netflix for it, as it appeared on Netflix UK. It’s set in a post apocalyptic Earth rather than space, but there’s some deep sleep shenanigans and life or death dilemmas going on.

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  11. Lloyd Marken

    I’ve got terrible news Matt, if I was single and in Pratt’s predicament and have a choice between an engineer and Jennifer Lawrence to spend the rest of my life with I’m picking Jennifer Garner but you get my point. 🙂 Reviews for this have not been good but your’s seems to suggest maybe to catch it on Netflix. How were the effects on the big screen?

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    1. Matt Post author

      Well, hey, I can sympathize with his predicament and I can imagine how the loneliness would take precedence over his practical engineering predicament. I just object to the message that the film sends. I was underwhelmed by most of the effects but there was one in particular that stood out (you’ve caught a glimpse in the previews I’m sure but it’s worth seeing the scene as a whole).

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  12. Silver Screenings

    I’ve read horrible things about this film – yours is actually the kindest review I’ve read.

    I think the only way I’d watch this one is if I were trapped under something heavy and couldn’t reach the remote.

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  13. Jay

    I watched this and didn’t mind it, but it’s a romance with a coincidentally sci-fi backdrop, not the other way around. It does feel like two different movies, but Pratt is very watchable. Cute butt in the shower watchable!!

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  14. perpetuallybooked

    I saw Passengers over the weekend and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first half of the movie. The trailer makes it seem like a flat out romance/action film, but this moral dilemma of Jim being alone and the choice to wake Aurora up, makes for a compelling drama. It did quickly go downhill in the last third of the film, with having to fix the ship. I also found it funny that he does wake someone up that can plausibly help his predicament and it’s a touch creepy how he lusts after Aurora while she sleeps, obvious illusions to Sleeping Beauty. I can somewhat forgive the creepy factor, only because Jim is clearly emotionally unstable and distraught, however it changed how I felt about his character moving forward. It’s not a perfect film, but I liked that it exceeded my expectations based on the trailer. Oh and I loved the way the ship was set up like a cruise ship, with the different classes of passengers and having to pay for extras. It would totally be like that!

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  17. osmovies

    It’s a good thing I didn’t see that. It’s a rip off on “2001: A Space Odyssey”. And I’m telling you, Hollywood movies are really worse. And all the same, we do need a new Stanley Kubrick in town.

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