With Earth overcrowded, leaving precious little space, the Homestead company has begun colonizing other planets, giving humans a chance to build a new home, and world, on another planet. Their latest planet, Homestead II, is 120 Earth years away. After takeoff, the crew and 5,000 passengers are put into a state of hibernation to effectively keep them from aging during the trip. The ship is completely automated to navigate the voyage without human intervention. All systems have been heavily tested to prevent any hibernation pod malfunctions and repair itself should the need arise.
Thirty years into the journey, passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), an engineer moving to Homestead II to help build the new world, finds himself prematurely awoken. As the only person awake on the starship Avalon, Jim spends a year desperately trying to wake the crew to put him back into hibernation. After this first year passes, Jim is joined by another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). Aurora is an hoping to become the first author to write about the new world and plans to travel back to Earth and write a book about the experience.
As Jim and Aurora learn to live their lives as the only people awake on the Avalon, various systems begin glitching. As the ship’s resources start to fail, Jim and Aurora find themselves frantically trying to save their lives as well as the lives of everyone else on board.
Passengers is a blend of several genres; romance, drama, action, sci-fi, catastrophe. Director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts do a fairly good job mixing them together to produce an enjoyable film that also makes you think.
I don’t think it is an accident that Jennifer Lawrence’s character is named Aurora. Lawrence gives a convincing performance as the “sleeping beauty” who finds herself abruptly awoken, essentially condemning her to death aboard the Avalon. She demonstrates her range as she learns to accept her fate. She and costar Chris Pratt have good chemistry on-screen. Pratt’s character is more understated than his typical roles. His usual sarcastic delivery is downplayed, making his character more realistic given the situation.
While the story is more or less formulaic and somewhat predictable, the way it is delivered is what is key. The relationship between Pratt and Lawrence take center stage for the majority of the film, with the impending disaster taking a backseat. Underlying the story is a question of ethics. I made the mistake of reading about a “minor spoiler” before seeing the film. I regret not heeding the author’s warning. For that reason, I won’t go into more detail, but you will understand when you see it. However, one has to question what they would do in a similar situation. I also found myself wondering, if death was imminent, would you want to be awake, given the opportunity to live out your final days as you wish or to die unaware, which would you choose? It is a surprisingly thought-provoking film.
Passengers, with two big name stars, has the potential to be either great or a complete flop. Instead of falling into either of these extremes, it finds itself somewhere in the middle. It could have been that my expectations were too high, keeping it from being great, but still being a really good movie. The screening I attended was not in 3D, but I think it lends itself extremely well to the format. I can think of several scenes that would have looked amazing. Spoil yourself and pay the extra for the 3D showing. If you temper your expectations, you will walk away from the movie completely satisfied.