Passengers review: by Adam Brannon
UK certification: 12A
Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are two of the world’s most bankable stars. What with Pratt helping to resurrect prehistoric franchises like Jurassic Park and Lawrence turning The Hunger Games series into one of the biggest ever, it seems they are the people Hollywood wants to work with, right here, right now.
It was inevitable they’d team up together at some point, though director Mortem Tyldum’s (The Imitation Game) sci-fi flick Passengers perhaps isn’t what their fan-bases had in mind. But do the pair sizzle together as much as they do apart?
On a routine journey through space to a new home, two passengers, sleeping in suspended animation, are awakened 90 years too early when their ship malfunctions. As Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) face living the rest of their lives on board, with every luxury they could ever ask for, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction until they discover the ship is in grave danger. With the lives of 5,000 sleeping passengers at stake, only Jim and Aurora can save them all.
Adding to the ever expanding sci-fi universe, Passengers is a slickly directed and engrossing film with a coat of varnish like no other movie this year. It certainly looks the part, though it’s probably best not to scratch beneath the surface of this Titanic in the sky, as much like the Starship Avalon on which our unlucky duo are stranded on, there’s not much going on underneath.
Pratt and Lawrence thankfully have an intense chemistry together, and that’s a good thing considering they are, by and large, the only two characters throughout. Propping up a 2 hour film is no easy feat and its testament to their talents that they are able to do so. Sure, their dialogue is a little cheesy, but they’re likeable enough to warrant a pardon this time around.
Elsewhere, Michael Sheen comes close to stealing the show as an enthusiastic android bartender, providing yet another great droid to add to the genre’s roster. Alan Tudyk from last week’s Rogue One also showed how deep these mechanical characters can be.
The special effects are on the whole very good, though there are a few instances of CGI that don’t quite hit the spot. The Avalon itself however is fantastically realised and scenes like the much-marketed swimming pool gravity loss are stunning to watch, all the while helped by Pratt and Lawrence’s brilliant acting skills.
There is one big problem however. The story. There are numerous elements to the plot that aren’t mentioned in the trailer, so I won’t spoil them for you here, but Passengers has seriously miscalculated a couple of elements to Pratt and Lawrence’s relationship – with a sudden third act tonal shift leaving a sour taste in the mouth.
Luckily, these flaws don’t detract from what is a thrilling rollercoaster from start to finish. Whilst it may not be as deep and meaningful as Ridley Scott’s The Martian, Passengers has an immersive quality – it’s like being on-board the Avalon, and with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence keeping us company, who can blame us for going along for the ride.
Budget: $110 million/Music: Thomas Newman/Length: 116 minutes