A film that malfunctions as fatally as the mechanism of the spaceship on which it is set.



In 2013 Hollywood gave us a masterpiece, Gravity, dealing with just two astronauts adrift in space. It's impossible not to think of that film when watching Morten Tyldum's Passengers which for much of its length also concentrates on just two people who in this case are among over 5000 passengers on a spaceship. They are being taken on a journey due to last 120 years at the end of which they will settle on the planet Homestead Colony II. Unfortunately,  there's a malfunction which releases one passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), from his sleep pod when the craft is still ninety years from its destination and when captain and crew like the other colonists are all asleep leaving Jim alone except for non-humans including the android barman Arthur (Michael Sheen).


The first and by far the best part of Passengers, notable for its pristine colour photography by Rodrigo Prieto, finds a neat balance between the sinister and the comic with Jim's exploration of this non-human environment reminding us of the extent to which mechanised systems already plague us today. But then, after a year of loneliness and a struggle with his conscience, Jim releases the journalist Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) from her pod because the sight of her face within makes it apparent that he has found the girl of his dreams.


Later another malfunction releases a crew member (Laurence Fishburne), but the film's middle section switches its tone to become a love story memorable only for its banal dialogue - the writer Jon Spaihts even fails to draw the line at that most parodied of comments when a girl's response to a ring being slipped onto her finger is 'It's beautiful'. Romance - and the sacrifices it can induce - will return at the film's conclusion but first the tone changes yet again to give us a mini-disaster movie as the starship is threatened with destruction unless our plucky duo can trace the crucial fault and rectify it. This section is made up of standard over-the top action material which will be regarded as utter tosh save by those who are eager to embrace any kind of science fiction however far-fetched and the ones in that category may well be those who will be very unresponsive to the prominent love story element.


How players as talented as Lawrence and Pratt could commit themselves to a screenplay as inept as this is difficult to understand. Their presence does help a little and Sheen is adept in capturing the right manner for his android but, once past the first half hour which utilises the settings and the novelty value of the tale promisingly, a steady downhill process sets in even if arch romantics may be in tears at the end.




Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Aurora Perrineau, Kimberly Battista.


Dir Morten Tyldum, Pro Greg Baxter, Michael Maher, Ori Marmur and Neil H. Moritz, Screenplay Jon Spaihts, Ph Rodrigo Prieto, Pro Des Guy Hendrix Dyas, Ed Maryann Brandon, Music Thomas Newman, Costumes Jany Temime.


LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Wanda Pictures/Original Film/Company Films/Start Motion Pictures-Sony Pictures.
116 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 21 December 2016. Cert. 12A.