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article imageReview: Passengers serves up an average slice of sci-fi Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 29, 2016 in Entertainment
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in the new science fiction movie 'Passengers'. The romance between the stranded couple works well but the story falters.
Passengers is a movie directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts. The cast is small and the two leads, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, dominate the screen time. The premise of the movie is good and it reads like classic science fiction: the Earth has become overpopulated and a group of people volunteer (or are selected, the film doesn't make clear) to go into suspended animated and to then wake up on another Earth-like planet to start a new society in 120 years time.
For dramatic effect things don't quite work out. One passenger, played by Pratt, is woken up 90 years too early. With only a variety or robotic life-forms for company he decided, eventually, to wake up the most desirable female passenger and then to woo her. Out of context this would be pretty creepy behavior; within the framework of the movie there's a logic to it and the movie makes a few references to Robinson Crusoe and the isolated island metaphor. Those with an interest in psychology might want to consider the Stockholm syndrome.
Theatrical release poster for  Passengers .
Theatrical release poster for 'Passengers'.
Sony Pictures
The couple fall in love, over time. The dramatic twist in their relationship, as well as things going wrong with the spacecraft seem like tired tropes: cue big-budget effects and a series of implausible heroics. The plot, according to Metro, borrows heavily from a 1950s pulp sci-fi comic called 50 Girls 50. There are also hints of a Kubrick movie bubbling under the surface. For more recent fare, there are sprinkles of Gravity and Interstellar.
On the plus side, both leads act well, bringing vitality and lots of athleticism to the movie. The relationship between the two, with its twists and turns, is believable. There's a difference in social class between the two passengers which adds a ring of realism. It also makes sense why Lawrence's charterer is glamorous, since Pratt's character had the pick of the entire passenger manifest and a year to select his ideal 'mate.' Also noteworthy is Michael Sheen who delivers a fine performance as a bartending android.
Scientifically it also gels better than, say Interstellar with its wormholes. The design of the spaceship, with its rotating blades, provides a means to stabilize gravity, and the concept of a long space journey requiring people to be put into suspended animation is plausible.
Where the movie falls flat is the second half. The first half engages the audience, wows them with effects and suggests a strong story-line. From then on things simply run out of steam.
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