– Before continuing please bare in mind that this article contains spoilers! –
In the tail end of December 2016 we saw Passengers hit cinemas, the new Sci-Fi film from director Morten Tyldum.
From the trailer we see that there are two passengers aboard some sort of space craft who have, as we understand, woken up from an induced hibernation earlier than expected.
From my experience, these kind of Sci-Fi films only go one way. I felt like I was given enough information from the trailer to assume that these two characters, over the 116 minutes running time, would face certain obstacles that they would overcome only to lead to an unrealistically happy conclusion.
The storyline wasn’t gripping enough for me to be queueing up outside the cinema doors on release day but with a small cast built of Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen, I assumed that this would bring in the paying audience.
It just so happened that I found myself at a loose end on Sunday afternoon, arriving at the cinema 3 hours early for my advanced screening of a La La Land (which by the way, just won 7 Golden Globes), I decided to see what ever movie was playing next. So, being an Unlimited customer I simply purchased one ticket for Passengers.
To start off, I was disappointed with the fact that it was a 3-D screening, which I am not a big fan of but my mood was quickly lifted as the film began. The film starts and I’m in space, and it actually looks like space because of the 3-D glasses. I’ve seen certain reviews of this film that state that the beginning was slow moving but in my opinion we were invited to follow this story straight away.
From the outset, we find out that the film is about a space craft named Avalon which is transporting 5000 tourists and around 200 crew to a new planet named Homestead 2. Each of these people are put into an induced hibernation for the duration of the flight which just so happens to be 120 years.
In the first few minutes we see technical errors with the spacecraft as it hits meteors, causing issues that are unable to be fixed without technical help, the biggest fault being that one of the hibernation pods has malfunctioned causing passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt, Parks & Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy) to be brought out of hibernation. As Jim comes out of his sleep we see the full extent of what this spacecraft has to offer. Jim is immediately welcomed by an automated woman, bringing him back to reality and informing him that there are 4 months left of the journey and to enjoy the rest of his stay on the spacecraft, which basically has all the same luxuries as a 5* hotel.
It’s not until Jim has finally gotten over his hibernation jetlag that he finally realises that he’s the only person awake. He is unable to communicate with Earth and the automated help centre does nothing more than tell him that it’s impossible for hibernation pods to malfunction. It’s not until he finds an information room which informs him that they are only 30 years into the 120 years journey, meaning that Jim has woken up from his hibernation 90 years too soon.
This is the point where Jim tries everything in his power to figure out what happened and tries to go back to sleep but unfortunately the problem is irreversible. With the realisation of his fate, Jim is doomed to live out the rest of his days on the Avalon with only a robot bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen, The Queen, Twilight) for company.
This is where the film turns into space Castaway. We see Jim adapt to his life on the spacecraft, he lets go of himself and loses his identity to loneliness and silence. We see a man go from an attractive, strong mechanical engineer to a depressed, estranged man with nothing to live for. He contemplates suicide but ultimately fear overtakes and instead he becomes obsessed with a fellow passenger, still in hibernation.
Passenger Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) is an author and journalist who left Earth with the intention of publishing written works about this new planet. After looking at her biography, Jim becomes captivated by this girl spending his days sitting by her pod, talking to her. After reading manuals, Jim learns that he could possibly wake this girl from hibernation and finds himself torn between the choice of having someone to keep him company but quite possibly taking someone else’s life away. He understands that waking this girl would be unforgivable and stays strong with his decision not to do it but it’s not until he has been awake for one year and three weeks that he finally caves, waking Aurora from hibernation and ultimately forcing her to live out the rest of her days on the spacecraft.
It was at this point that the film really turned around for me. My original expectations were dashed as this was a plot twist I wasn’t expecting. Trailers these days are awful for giving away the whole story but this one didn’t. This was when I realised that this film had led us to believe that the only issue these characters would face is that they’re awake when they shouldn’t be, but not that this character had to make this decision.
Under the impression that her pod also malfunctioned, Aurora excepts her fate and embraces her new life on the Avalon, writing a new story about her life on the spacecraft. As time goes on Jim and Aurora become close, supporting each other and not so unexpectedly become lovers. It’s not until Jim has been awake two years that the secret comes out and Aurora finds out from Arthur that it was in fact Jim that woke her from hibernation causing the two of them to fall out, big time.
Although this film has so many different aspects, this part of the story was the most gripping for me. It’s really one of those stories that make you question what you would do in that situation, would you be capable of taking away somebody’s life in order to fill a void in your own? Or is it undeniable that anyone would make the same decision if they in Jim’s position?
Chris Pratt made his own journey throughout this film, starting off with his usual humorous approach at the beginning, bringing light to a dark situation until turning it on its head. He portrays the lonely man, the psychologically broken man and the guilty man without fault.
The same goes for Jennifer Lawrence, the ideal leading woman for this part. From her previous work we know that she plays the strong, independent heroine down to a T. But it’s a pleasure to see her take all of those qualities and mix them with her softer side, showing the audience that she can also play the romantic, young girl in love.
Pratt and Lawrence gel well together and their performance as a romantic couple is realistic and enjoyable viewing. The fact that this film only really has four characters only makes it a more intense production and Michael Sheen’s confidante bartender is a key reminder of where this love story is essentially taking place.