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USA 2016
Directed by
Morten Tyldum
116 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


Synopsis: A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant planet has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years too early.

Passengers is the sort of movie whose very opening scene give you misgivings.  In this case it’s a generically hunky guy (the well-named Chris Pratt), the sort of so-called stud-muffin you’d find in reality TV shows like Farmer Wants A Wife, waking up in a pod on a huge spaceship.  It turns out that because of a collision with a abnormally large meteor there has been a malfunction and the guy, named Jim Preston, has been woken by the automated systems 90 years too early.  For the next 20 minutes or so, during which you yearn for the wit of Matt Damon’s NASA-trained astronaut in The Martian, Jim, who starts off being referred to as an engineer but who rightly gets dumbed-down to “mechanic”, pulls at levers and pushes on buttons, eventually taking to the bridge-room door with a sledgehammer (not a piece of equipment one usually associates with space travel) before surrendering to his fate and letting his beard grow (you'd wonder why there is no means of contacting mission control on Earth in such a sophisticated spaceship). 

Then, after chummy conversations with an android barman (Michael Sheen, whatever happened to his career!!), who for some reason is on duty when there is not a living soul around, Jim decides to wake a female passenger, Aurora Lane, to keep him company. And not any female but one who he has assessed as being "perfect", a judgement which given that she is in an induced coma would have to go down as questionable.  The two then embark on the boy-gets-girl stage of what is essentially a formulaic rom-com cloaked with the trappings of a formulaic space disaster movie.  This is jaw-droppingly awful stuff, a cobbling together of every cliché of the courtship stage of the romance genre with Lawrence fueling Jim's libido with a trunkload of form-hugging outfits which she apparently has brought with her including a little black dress and stilettoes not to mention a very revealing swimsuit, as you do when you go on a 125 year journey to another planet.

When Aurora learns that she has been duped by Jim who led her to believe that, like him, she was awoken by accident, briefly one hopes that the movie will shift gear, that the rom-com clichés would be exposed for what they were and that Aurora would bring some much needed intelligence to bear on proceedings. Forget about it. Her response is to start screaming and to punch dorky Jim multiple times in the face (thereby sealing her identity as the dumb-blonde antithesis of Amy Adams's linguist in the currently-screening  Arrival). Jim cops it because, heck, he's done a bad thing and so we’re in the boy-loses-girl stage of the film. This is pretty short-lived, mercifully so, as neither Aurora nor Jim have a scintilla of interest for us as stand-alone characters. Laurence Fishburne pops up and sticks around long enough before dying to kick-start a rapprochement between the two former lovers and generally help the plot along. And so the boy-gets-girl-back stage begins as Jim, with an hitherto-unseen amazing gift for problem-solving and spacecraft repairs, saves the day and gets the girl and we get a voice-overed wrap-up from Aurora whose landscaping efforts are still intact even though she's presumably been dead for roughly thirty years.

Director Morten Tyldum’s previous film, The Imitation Game (2014), was a substantial effort but with Passengers his routine helming chimes perfectly with Jon Spaihts’ superficial script which mind-numblingly adheres to the conventions of its two underpinning genres, the overall result being a kind of  malformed offspring of Love Story and Gravity.  The high-end futuristic production design, which is evidently indebted to 200i: A Space odyssey, is impressive but not enough to distract you from the film's terminal vapidity.  

Weed the garden, walk the dog or get an early night. Anything but waste your time with this film.




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