Passengers was billed as a sort of rom com in space, an action packed two hours spent waiting for Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to realise they were meant for each other and kiss passionately under the stars after first saving a spaceship.
This isn’t quite what we get.
As a romance, the film has one glaring issue; whilst Jim’s hibernation pod genuinely malfunctions, Aurora’s rude awakening is not accidental. This leaves the viewer with a problem – it’s hard to invest in a love story that is essentially a futuristic version of Stockholm syndrome. Both Pratt and Lawrence are fine actors and their on-screen chemistry is palpable, but the troubling nature of Jim and Aurora’s relationship is too big an obstacle for even their talents to overcome.
As a sci-fi thriller, Passengers also falters. The true ‘oh no the ship might blow up’ jeopardy doesn’t really come to the fore until the final thirty minutes, by which point it must all be resolved rather hurridly. Everything comes a little too easily and the stakes just don’t seem high enough. Jokes nodding to the capitalist machinations behind the promise of a new world made us chuckle, but were never pushed far enough to really matter.
Passengers does have its redeeming features. The film is at its best in its first 20 minutes, as Jim comes to terms with his new situation, battling with the reality of being simultaneously surrounded by people and completely alone. Pratt proves that he isn’t just a funny man, giving Matt Damon a run for his Martian money with his ‘lonely man lost in space’ acting. Frankly, we could have watched a whole film of that.
Performance wise, the film belongs to its two leads, but there are a couple of strong supporting turns. Michael Sheen is delightfully sinister as he delivers his clichéd but oddly pertinent bartender wisdom, and Lawrence Fishburne imbues a lot of heart into what is essentially a character built for the purposes of providing a door key.
Oscar nominated director Morton Tyldum (The Imitation Game) does a decent job with a flawed concept. Passengers is visually stunning – and we aren’t just talking about its scantily clad leading actors. The interiors of the space ship are beautifully realised and the special effects are very impressive, in particular a sequence in which Aurora’s afternoon swim is interrupted by a suddenly loss of gravity.
Unfortunately, however, this is a case of style over substance.
|What||Passengers film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
23 Dec 16 – 23 Jan 17, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|