Movies

Movie Review: Passengers

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A mechanical engineer, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt, “Jurassic World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy“), is aboard the Starship Avalon, a spaceship transporting over 5,000 passengers to a newly colonized planet, Homestead Colony.

All passengers and crews are in cyrosleep during the planned 120-year interstellar trip.  30 years en route, the spaceship passes through a meteor shower, leading to a cascade of system failures, which results in the malfunction of one of hibernation pods, Jim’s.  He is awakened 90 years earlier.

Pratt is solid here, in portraying Jim’s mental state.  From amusing himself with top-flight amenities of the luxury starliner, interacting with the solo android bartender (Michael Sheen, “Tron: Legacy“), to internalizing the terrifying realization of being absolutely alone and will be for the rest of his life.  He continues to maintain some level of likeability throughout.

When a second passenger, journalist Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence; “The Hunger Games” series, “X-Men” series, “American Hustle“), is also awakened from slumber, Jim and Aurora naturally form a relationship.  They get to know each other, dance with hologram partners, play basketball, watch movies, have drinks, dine in opulence, take heady space walks.  But it’s a relationship built on a major secret.  Jim has done something that irrevocably crosses the line.

Eventually Jim and Aurora realize that they are onboard of a sinking spaceship and everyone’s lives is in mortal danger.  The movie rushes toward resolution with a lightning speed, moving from a romantic drama to action.

The movie’s got very cool visual effects.  A super sleek spacecraft with expansive exterior and interior design that looks futuristically real.  A viewing deck for a luminous cosmic show.   An infinity pool at the edge of deep space.

Those spoiled by the great sci-fi flicks in the last few years, “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” “The Martian,” and most recently, “Arrival,” have undoubtedly looked forward to hopping on the “Passengers” galactic train.

Compared to those critically praised pictures, “Passengers” has garnered less than stellar reactions.  It has a lot to do with an early plot twist (which may or may not be a spoiler, depending on which synopsis you’ve read) and the ending.

While it’s easy to judge Jim’s morally questionable actions in the beginning, even those who love solitude will likely never know what it truly feels like being the last person alive.  Humans are social beings.  And Aurora’s subsequent actions, she chooses to make those decisions on her own.  The movie touches on existential (“what would you do?”) and morality issues.

It may be easy to dismiss “Passengers” as a Titanic in space with a Hollywood ending.  Ironically, it would have been just that if it’s two passengers stranded in a spaceship and making the best of what they have.  But it’s more than that.  “Passengers” offers a sci-fi romance with a thought-provoking twist.

Copyright (c) 2016.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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