Passengers was directed by Morten Tyldum, who brought us the fantastic true story of Alan Turing and his mathematical, code-breaking Enigma machine that won World War 2 for the Allies, The Imitation Game. It was a fascinating film from start to finish about a man who had more going on in his head than most people every knew. He was a brilliant man, tortured internally by his own secrets and his social awkwardness that plagued him his whole life. The Imitation Game was fresh, exciting, intelligent and a truly special film. I was jazzed when I saw he was signed to direct Passengers and was eager to see this one, too. Such joy with The Imitation Game and such displeasure with Passengers.
Passengers stars Chris Pratt as a mechanic who has booked passage on the Avalon, a sleek looking spacecraft on a 100 year journey to Homestead 2. Homestead 2 is a new colony for those looking for a change of scenery from Earth. His hibernation pod wakes him up with 90 years left on the voyage, thus dooming him to die on the Avalon alone and never making it to Homestead 2. His only companion is a robotic bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) who likes like the creepy bartender from The Shining. Whether that was intentional by the filmmakers is anyone’s guess. For the first thirty minutes, Passengers was working for me. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) tries, in vain, to get help to rectify his problem so he can go back to hibernation, but to no avail. Passengers for the first thirty minutes is interesting. Preston and Arthur have some intelligent conversations and all seemed to be going well. Then Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) happens.
Passengers has a gimmick that is not described in the trailers so, for those who still want to see this film, I will not divulge the plot twist. Jennifer Lawrence, though, is the weakest link of Passengers, sadly. She is a knockout physically and a fine actress, but with Passengers she seems to be phoning it in. She does not have a lot to do except look pretty and to be fair the script by Jon Spaihts does not give her that much to do. Spaihts, who has penned some very good scripts with Doctor Strange and Prometheus, seems to lose faith in his own story which turns into a soap opera first and then a routine action film in the final act. One thing I have to ask. You have a ship like the Avalon which cost probably billions to put together. Some company won the contract of a lifetime to build this ship which will carry at least 5000 people to a new world 100 years away. Just as long as you don’t run into any meteor showers. One hit from a meteor and the Avalon is a floating scrap heap. Everything starts falling apart and our heroes have to risk their lives to reboot the floating junk heap? Really? Who is making these ships? What is the ship made out of? Legos?
Passengers tries but the film lost me after about 30 minutes. I like Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen, but Jennifer Lawrence is eye candy and nothing more. Laurence Fishburn has a small role but, like Lawrence, is not given anything to do and I don’t know what in the heck Andy Garcia is doing here. I don’t think he has a single line of dialogue. He shows up in the last scene and is basically a cameo. But why? Visually, Passengers is alluring and polished. Thomas Newman provides another masterful score that is worth every penny on Amazon. Pratt and Sheen are good together but every time Aurora Lane shows up Passengers grinds to a halt. I don’t blame Jennifer Lawrence, but the filmmakers. She is a terrfic actress but they have seriously underdeveloped her character. She is supposed to be a writer, but she ends up being a bore and the last act of Passengers is simply assembly line filmmaking. This film is a missed opportunity from a director and writer that have done so much better.
Passengers – ** out of 5
Passengers – Rated PG-13 for violence, language, sexual situations, scenes of peril
Passengers – Run Time is 116 minutes
Passengers is now playing in theaters. If you are still bent on seeing this film, check your local listings for times and locations.