Can a film survive on the strength of it’s two impossibly good looking leads?
The filmmakers behind Passengers, the latest effort from Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, are certainly banking on it, as Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are onscreen together almost exclusively for the majority of the film.
Stuck onboard the Avalon, a futuristic spacecraft heading into deep space on a 120 year long voyage to a new life, Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer who is awoken 90 years early and must decide how to survive the remaining years of the flight with only an android bartender (Michael Sheen) for company.
The Avalon has 5000 slumbering guests en route to faraway planet Homestead II when it encounters an asteroid storm that damages the vessel’s advanced operating system.
The malfunction of Preston’s pod opening prematurely is the first of several technological breakdowns that begin to plague the ship.
When Jim is joined by Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora (geddit?!) Lane, a journalist whose sleep pod also woke her before her arrival on the far flung colony, the two begin to explore the enormous craft and their relationship with each other.
Also along for the ride is Laurence Fishburne as Chief Gus Mancuso who kind of turns up our of nowhere as the ship continues to misbehave.
The film starts off as a beautiful piece of thought provoking science fiction posing questions about loneliness and survival, the future of the human race and our reliance on technology.
However the situation between Jim and Aurora is more complicated than we are first led to believe (from the films trailers and marketing materials), and this creates a challenge for the audience in our response to this new information.
It is an unsettling piece of plotting and the two are forced to coexist in a claustrophobic environment with an uncomfortable fact splitting them apart.
As the ship’s integrity begins to disintegrate in a an alarming fashion, they must decide of they can put their differences behind them and work together to save the ship and the thousands of souls on board.
This is a slick, visually jaw-dropping film in the vein of Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian, but the one sticking point for me feels glossed over in an unacceptable way.
I may need to see this again to confirm my suspicions that what started out as a super smart piece of cinema has been dumbed down to a blockbuster movie for the masses.
Rotten Tomatoes (sadly) agrees – Critics Consensus: Passengers proves Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence work well together — and that even their chemistry isn’t enough to overcome a fatally flawed story.
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