Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt
Space is a mysterious place: majestic, abound and infinite. But it is still not a bigger mystery than Passengers. Is it a space opera, an adventure film, an emotional drama or a love story? It tries to be everything at the same time but ends up being a wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey mess.
In theory, Passengers could turn on any science fiction fan: a 120-year journey through space where one man (Chris Pratt) in hyper-sleep wakes up 90 years before his time, all alone on a spaceship. He knows he will die alone. But before they reach their destination, he has the option of waking up anyone he chooses from the 5,000 fellow travellers. And he sets his eyes on the best one: a beautiful, charming sleeping beauty (Jennifer Lawrence). After winning a short battle with his conscience on whether or not have her suffer the same fate, he decides to do the deed. Just like the prince in the fairy tale, he wakes her up without her consent. What a brilliant proposal! The idea itself gives you goosebumps. It sure gave me some when I first heard of it.
Passengers could have been one of the best films of our time. Millions of miles away from Earth, we could have gotten a window into the psyche of humanity: why do we do the things we do, how desperate are we for a connection and a purpose or can selfishness ever be justified? However, all we got was a sloppy excuse that suddenly turned into an adventure flick in the last and most important 30 minutes.
Had it stayed on course, the distractions been fewer and the goal been narrower, perhaps we would have seen a winner. But despite all that Lawrence gave to the film, it doesn’t live up to expectations.
The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is fresh but doesn’t strike a balance. While she masters every light or heavy scene with the kind of performance expected of an Academy Award nominee, he still needs help letting go of his Parks and Recreation charisma. However, casting Pratt was a good choice too in a way because we are expected to not feel contempt towards the guy who is just another person banished to a life of loneliness. His hard-to-shed image of a lovable idiot may have matured to that of a lovable hottie, but it is still very difficult to hate a face that looks like Chris Pratt. But despite the difficulty, we somehow still managed to hate the character he played.
The premise of Passengers is excellent, the actors are perfect and still something has gone so disastrously wrong. Rather than giving a better understanding to the dynamics of the relationship between a selfish perpetrator and a wronged victim who are doomed to live under the same roof until death, we are given the dynamics of the workings of a spaceship and its many technical glitches.
The first one-and-a-half hours of the film is discarded for a ‘bigger’ problem at hand: saving the ship from exploding. The exploding ship suddenly changes everything between the protagonists. Lawrence’s justified hatred is belittled almost like a mood swing and it will not be something that goes down well with you if you appreciate your right to consent.
People have already started bashing Passengers for the unashamed justification of a horrible act of selfishness but I would have not cribbed had the film built on it. Why he did it and how she lived with the knowledge of what has been done to her could have still made for a compelling story and a performance worth remembering.
The problem is not the selfishness but the laziness with which it has been wrapped in the garb of ‘love’.
The effects or the experience of the movie doesn’t stand anywhere in comparison to the slew of exceptional sci-fi films we have had the good fortune to witness recently. So even if you are interested in nothing but space and spaceships, I suggest you pop on a Gravity or Interstellar Blu-Ray instead.
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