Review: Passengers

Would you spend your life alone if you were given a paradise?  This is the central question Passengers asks and you will find yourself contemplating the premise of this film long after you’ve seen it.

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt, Guardians Of The Galaxy) is awakened from his hibernation pod aboard the space ship Homestead II.

A mechanical engineer, he had paid the mega-corporation Homestead to be put to sleep for 90 years to be among the first 5,000 people to colonize a new planet.

For this privilege, once there, he will continue to pay 20 per cent of his wages to the company for the rest of his life.

Jim thinks this is a fair trade for a new start in a new world. He knows that engineers will be needed and he is eager to feel useful as he bemoans that nothing is fixed any more, it’s just replaced.

The wrench in his plan occurs when the ship hits a large asteroid and systems begin to malfunction.

Jim’s pod opens, he is greeted by a hologram and transported through the complete wake-up phase of his trip.

He is taken to his quarters where he deliberates which outfit to wear as he prepares for his reintroduction session and to meet his fellow passengers and crew.

He is surprised when he sees no other people in the halls nor in the digitized presentation room.

Jim’s panic increases when he goes to an information kiosk and learns that he has woken up 90 years too soon. In desperation, he tries to send a message to Earth only to learn that it will take it 30 years to reach Earth and an additional 35 years to receive a reply.

Jim is alone, totally and utterly alone.

Fortunately, the ship’s lounge is manned by an android, Arthur (Michael Sheen, Nocturnal Animals). Given that Arthur is presumably the only human-like entity on board the ship, Jim finds he starts spending an inordinate amount of time hanging out at the bar.

Jim tries everything he can think of to break into the flight deck, but everything is locked down. He can’t even get a fancy coffee for himself as the cafeteria kiosk demands a “gold level” passenger status and Jim is just a regular passenger.

Deciding that he can call the shots now, Jim breaks into a deluxe penthouse suite and starts living it up. He grows a Castaway-style beard, gets paunchy and descends into deep depression.

His loneliness reaches a point where he contemplates suicide. When he quite literally backs away taking his own life, he spies one of the passengers asleep in her pod – Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games).

Jim searches her profile and learns that she is a writer who planned to travel to Homestead 2, live there for a year and travel back to earth to write about it. She will be the first person to make such a voyage and return.

Jim is tormented by loneliness and finally decides to awaken Aurora, convinced she is the perfect partner for him. The rest is a love and survival story that I’m not going to spoil here.

Despite several flaws in the story, script writing and cinematography, three things make Passengers an enjoyable watch: the premise, the ship itself and three talented actors. 

Chris Pratt, while lovely to look at, was perhaps not the best choice to play the tortured Jim. He is at his best playing a wise-cracking smart ass and this takes away from what could have potentially been a really good study in human selfishness.

Jennifer Lawrence shines as Aurora. She’s feisty, sexy and smart and when she rages at Jim, we bloody well believe her.

Michael Sheen is excellent as Arthur the affable android and is given some of the best dialogue in the sparsely worded script.

Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) as Gus Mancuso is not at his best in this role and there were moments when his acting chops failed so horribly, it felt like a day-time soap opera.

There were ample opportunities for some amazing CGI, but this also failed with the exception of the scene where the gravity on the ship malfunctions while Aurora is swimming in the pool - a magical cinematic moment.

Sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts. That said, there is a moral dilemma at the core of this film that will give you pause to ponder – if put in his shoes, what would you have done?

I give this film 3 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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