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Film review: Passengers

‘Castaway’ meets ‘The Martian’ meets ‘Galaxy’ with hints of ‘The Red Turtle’ in director Morten Tyldum’s romantic space drama starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a still from ‘Passengers’.
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a still from ‘Passengers’. (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a still from ‘Passengers’.)

Passenger Jim (Chris Pratt) awakes early when his hibernation pods open prematurely; not just a little early but 90-years too soon. Five thousand passengers and more than 200 crew members are suspended in deep sleep for a 120-year journey to a new planetary abode aboard a massive and highly sophisticated spaceship. This is what a luxury cruise-liner designed for space might be like, with economy and gold class passengers, bunkers and suites, a swimming pool with a view of the stars and multiple restaurants.

The passengers are to be revived four months before arriving on their new home planet of Homestead II but malfunctions in Jim’s cryo-pod make him the solitary person awake on this cavernous ship. After a year of bashing around, exploring every corner of the ship, trying desperately to break into the control centre in order to figure out what went wrong with his pod, on the verge of losing hope and sanity, Jim decides to awaken a co-passenger. He picks Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence).

Once she gets over the futility of her situation, Aurora and Jim bond and, eventually, they fall in love. What Pratt is unable to deliver in terms of anxiety and gloom, Lawrence makes up for in spades as she learns that Jim stole her life from her. But the break-up clichés in outer space just make the ensuing scenes unpalatable.

Passengers directed by Morten Tyldum does not go the distance in either being a space drama or a romance. It’s a confused mash-up of several genres including a desperate attempt at being an interstellar thriller. Pratt’s charm needed to be balanced out to capture the doom and hopelessness felt by two individuals fated to spend the remaining years of their lives travelling through space in this large metallic vehicle.

Laurence Fishburne also features as a crew-member Gus Mancuso while Michael Sheen brings his trademark mischief to the robotic Arthur, the bartender, Jim’s android confidante.

Slick production design and the chemistry of the lead duo aside, replacing emotions of desperation and deceit with schmaltz in space is a little hard to digest.

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