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New Release Review - PASSENGERS

An intergalactic traveller is woken from his sleep 90 years too early.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia



The premise of Passengers is akin to Sleeping Beauty being woken by a kiss from Maleficent - oh wait, we already got that movie - or Dawn of the Dead, if the male protagonists had faked the zombie apocalypse in order to get laid.



Remember that Youtube video from a decade ago that recut a trailer for The Shining to make it look like a Cameron Crowe-esque feelgood flick? Well believe me when I tell you that video was a more accurate representation of Stanley Kubrick's Stephen King adaptation than the official trailers for Passengers are of director Morten Tyldum's sci-fi 'romp'.

As with any other review, I'll be discussing the premise of Passengers. I won't be dropping spoilers, but it may seem that way due to how misrepresented the film has been in its marketing, so if you want to go in to Passengers expecting the movie you've been sold, you might want to leave this review until you see the film, at which point you can come back here fuming with rage.


Passengers boasts an intriguing setup. 30 years into a 120 year voyage to Homestead II, an Earth-like planet in a far off galaxy, Jim Preston's (Chris Pratt) lengthy slumber on the Starship Avalon is disturbed when his hibernation pod malfunctions, waking him 90 years ahead of schedule. Discovering no way to return to his extended sleep, Jim resigns himself to the grim fact that he's going to die alone (unless you count Michael Sheen's android bartender).

He makes the most of it for a year, amusing himself with video games, movies and basketball, until he stumbles upon a beautiful young woman, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), slumbering in her pod. Jim looks up her files and discovers she's a journalist planning a story around her trip to and from Homestead II. By my maths, that's a 240 year deadline; I'm pretty sure the print industry will have died off long before she files her copy.

We see Jim falling for her writing - of course, it helps that she looks like Jennifer Lawrence - to the point where he begins to consider releasing her from hibernation. After a very small bit of moral juggling, Jim switches off her pod, playing dumb when she realises he's the only other person awake on the craft. It's akin to Sleeping Beauty being woken by a kiss from Maleficent - oh wait, we already got that movie - or Dawn of the Dead, if its male protagonists had faked the zombie apocalypse in order to get laid.


Sounds like a pretty interesting thriller huh? In the right hands it no doubt would be, but Jon Spaights' script, Tyldum's direction and particularly Thomas Newman's score all go out of their way to sell this plotline as a romance when it's practically a date rape, and in some ways a murder. Rather than positing Aurora as the heroine and mining suspense from her obliviousness to the reality of her situation, the film presents itself from Jim's point of view, with the drama coming from how long he can get away with romancing his prey before she figures out the truth.

Released within days of the equally controversial Collateral Beauty, Passengers is yet another movie that excuses the actions of a sociopathic protagonist. Tyldum's film reaches an egregious low point late on when a third party mansplains to Aurora how she should forgive Jim because he was lonely.


Remove such moral murkiness and Passengers is still a narrative mess, thanks to a script riddled with oversights and convenient twists. Spaights was the main writer on the equally derided Alien prequel Prometheus, and in Passengers' third act he steals a plot beat directly from his own previous work.

As presented here, the Avalon is the most ill-conceived mass transit spaceship in sci-fi history, with only one medical facility for its 5000 passengers, who we're told will collectively wake up four months ahead of arriving at their new home. Perhaps most problematic of all is how Shannon's android appears to be the sole barman in the ship's only pub. Happy hour must be havoc.

Passengers is in cinemas December 21st.





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