Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Passengers is an endlessly inventive and visually mesmerising sci-fi thriller. But despite having a cast of 4 or 5 people, the film still manages to feel crowded.
The man behind The Imitation Game (2014) brings us Passengers; a futurisitic sci-fi thriller in which our protagonists are woken from hyper-sleep 90 years too early on a 120 year journey through space. The imagination and inventiveness of Passengers is staggering, with a level of detail which is out of this world. The plot line is fascinating, taking full advantage of the isolation of space to exacerbate debatably any human being's worst fear - loneliness. Passengers could easily have been a horror movie. More practically, this film has explored the scientific requirements and limitations of ‘hyper- sleep’ more than any film previously, the attention to detail going a long way towards creating a unnervingly realistic space adventure. Coupling this with an astounding array of special effects makes Passengers a visually stunning piece of cinema.
As well as being a visual success, a special mention must go to Passengers’ hauntingly beautiful original score, composed by Thomas Newman. Crystalline, the piece married with Jim’s (Pratt) first ‘space-walk’, is particularly stirring, capturing the loneliness and existential beauty of space quite stunningly, while Command Ring is the perfect accompaniment to Jim’s panic as he begins to understand his situation. As original scores go, Passengers’ is one which is both perfectly fitting and, at times, moving, brilliantly conveying themes of horror, passion and desperate isolation.
However, while being practically adept, Passengers still manages to be quite a confused piece of work. The film is stretched across two genres, not quite blending them together, resulting in a sloppy amalgamation of romance and thriller. Both elements are done well, and on their own are entertaining and emotive, but this focus on two genres means that neither is fully explored. Its claustrophobic atmosphere is intruded on by the romantic undertone, while that in turn is interrupted by its racing climax. Passengers may have benefited from an extra 30 minutes of footage in order to weave these two themes together more elegantly, 2 hours barely being enough time to explore each concept thoroughly. It leaves the viewer feeling confused and perhaps underwhelmed, as the expectations for each genre are not fully met.
Pratt initially struggles to move from comedy to drama, but eventually settles into his role, submitting a decent performance as a man pushed by his desperation to do something terrible. Lawrence is astounding, her tender connection with her companion contrasting brilliantly with her desperation and rage. Together, the romance that grows between them is magnetic, their developing affection for one another intensified by the tragedy of their situation. The romantic element of this film is a fantastic watch, even if it is self-contained. Both our leads produce steadfast performances, despite the film’s identity struggles, while Sheen shines as their counselling robotic bar-tender, both preventing the film from becoming monotonous and stirring some comedy into the tragic undertone.
Passengers is an enjoyable, albeit confused, sci-fi movie, one which teeters on the edge of romance and thriller, never drawing in enough of either to fully flesh itself out. Despite this confusion, however, Passengers is stunning to watch, and stunning to hear, being one of the more inventive and detailed space dramas to come out in recent years.
In one line: Passengers provides a lifetime's worth of ingenuity and inventiveness, but in an attempt to tell two stories ends up stretching itself too thin.