Thirty years into a space commute destined to colonise a new world, two passengers, Jim (Chris Pratt) and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), are prematurely woken from cryosleep, 90 years early, fated to live out their lives aboard the Avalon before ever reaching their destination.
For what starts out as a traditional tale of a blossoming romance in an impossible situation, Passengers surprisingly asks questions of morality, survival and sacrifice for the greater good. It’s one of those films where you think it’s going to be the standard ‘boy-meets-girl-they-fall-in-love-and-save-the-world’ but it does so with class and astuteness.
Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) expertly makes use of a small cast and a (naturally) limited location. This very easily could have been a boring film.
The initial chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence is palpable. It’s refreshing to see an on-screen couple who portray the ‘realness’ of romance, rather than adhering to the stereotypes.
Apparently, Jennifer Lawrence was so nervous about kissing a married man, she was in need of a little Dutch courage.
“It was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach,” Lawrence explained. “And I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that,” she added, saying that she even called her mom for reassurance. “You want to do it real, you want everything to be real, but then . . . That was the most vulnerable I’ve ever been.”
However, as the audience, we are aware of Jim’s flaws before Aurora even has a chance. The constant wonder as to whether he’ll reveal his true self adds another facet to their familiar star-crossed tale… and provides a plot point, too, of course.
The only other sentient being awake on the ship, Arthur, is a rather enigmatic android barman played by Michael Sheen. With plenty of sass and relationship advice on hand, he is a welcome component of the Avalon.
“Sheen injects a welcome third perspective, breaking into the lovers’ solipsism and laying bare their flaws — which are more than just passing. Jim and Aurora’s relationship is built on a lie, one that covers obsession, self-interest and crushing guilt.” – James Dyer, Empire.
Naturally, the Avalon malfunctions and the two passengers are forced to take matters into their own hands. With the lives of their fellow colonists firmly placed in their hands, Tyldum’s direction transforms the earlier romance into a genuine edge-of-your-seat disaster film.
Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is stylish enough to set Passengers apart from the many other space-related films out there today and the product design is believable enough to make you want to actually board the Avalon… preferably before it malfunctions.
I won’t go on for fear of spoiling your experience of the film.
I went into this film thinking it was nothing more than a glossy space affair featuring two well-known actors, by the end I was screaming at the screen demanding more – honestly.
The ending, for me, is a little inadequate considering you’re so invested in the characters by that point. Perhaps that’s just me; if you’ve seen the film, I’d love to hear your take on the epilogue scene.
Go forth, board the Avalon and enjoy this surprisingly underrated space flick.
Thanks for reading.