As far as I can tell, on Passengers, director Morten Tyldum is not trying to say that technology is out to get you, or that space is a tough place to have to make a go of it, but instead he simply wants to astonish us with the spectacle of what he and his team can conceive. This film is at its core very similar to Tyldum’s previous release, Imitation Game; it’s a cute story but it doesn’t say too much.
Watching Passengers was like getting attached to the wonder of an excellent dream but realizing none of it is real even before it had a chance to finish properly. Passengers follows the story of several thousand sleeping passengers on their 120-year-long cryosleep journey to a new planet. The film begins with no immediate characters taking the stage, only a montage that outlines a ship’s journey. After the ship encounters a meteor shower, a passenger’s pod opens and he finds himself awake 90 years before the destination date with no way of returning to sleep. Lovable Chris Pratt, joined eventually by the ever-overzealous Jennifer Lawrence, faces numerous sets of problems that often seem particularly unsolvable and which clearly underscore the inevitability of the wait that the pair face.
As you follow the story, you may find that none of the events are particularly interesting, but comedic timing, the preservation of humanity, and the visual spectacle of the film may end up keeping you satisfactorily occupied. The visual effects and elaborate, luxurious design of the ship are enough on their own to keep the audience engaged. Good thing too, as the plot of the film is as predictable as can be. As the teaser trailer promises, Lawrence’s character struggles and thrashes in spheres of floating water when the “gravity drive” fails, which leads to a slightly drawn-out, but still stunning, series of attempts to escape from the awe-inspiring display. If you aren’t familiar with the deus ex machina story technique, this film will make you abundantly capable of picking it out.
A rom-com drenched with the charm and boyish machismo of Chris Pratt and the casual objectification of Jennifer Lawrence with a space journey twist, Passengers is the date night movie of the season. I wouldn’t consider it a spoiler when I tell you that the two of them eventually hook up, that’s obvious from the trailer, but what may spoil it for you is that the relationship drama that follows is basically the crux of the film.
If you came looking for a thriller along the lines of the Alien or Star Trek franchises, you’re in the wrong theatre, walk next door to see Rogue One, that’ll serve you better. But if you and your spouse, or your mom, or your sibling feel like watching a relationship play out in the isolated frontier of space, queue on up.