The first of two sci-fi film reviews over the next few days, Passengers is the story of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jim Preston (Chris Prattle) as a pair of passengers on an interstellar transport who are supposed to be asleep for 120 years – but are awoken 90 years too soon.
Well ok, it isn’t that simple. Jim is awoken by accident, the result of a collision with an asteroid, which sets into motion the events of the film. At first, the film neatly encapsulates the thrill of having an entire ship as a plaything, though Jim’s status as a ‘standard’ passenger restricts a few of his options. As time goes by, Jim is slowly crushed by loneliness and even considers suicide by airlock.
His only companion (to begin with) is Arthur (Martin Sheen), an android bartender. Sheen’s performance as a gentlemanly machine is very good, and you forget he’s supposed to be a machine. However, for the character of Jim, after a year Arthur is not enough, and he craves human companionship. At this point the film takes a darker turn. Jim could potentially wake up anyone on the ship (aside from the crew), but a chance encounter with the hibernation pod of Aurora leads to him becoming obsessed with her, and eventually taking the decision to open her pod.
With no way back into hibernation this is tantamount to a death sentence. There are ethical questions here that the film touches on a little, but not to any meaningful degree. Jim doesn’t tell Aurora he opened her pod, letting her believe it to be an accident, with the aim of getting to know her and hoping she falls in love with him – which eventually she does. The question here is over the latent entitlement complex clearly bubbling away in Jim’s character. He knows it’s wrong to wake Aurora (as it would be to wake anyone), but because he’s read her writings and watched a few video recordings she’s made, and decides he’s got the right to ruin her future on the chance she might be interested in him. When Aurora learns the truth she is understandably pissed, and as Jim tries pitfully to explain, she screams that he has taken her life from her. From that point on, she avoids Jim until malfunctions that have been plaguing the ship awaken a member of the crew (Gus, played by Laurence Fishbourne), who sets about trying to repair the ship. Fishbourne is only in the film briefly but he’s a good actor who lends gravitas to proceedings and accelerates the film toward its conclusion. Gus dies from complications relating to his pod’s malfunction and Jim and Aurora work to find out the cause of the ship’s problems, during the course of which Aurora (a little easily) decides she can’t live without Jim, and even turns down the option to go back into stasis (once they discover the means to do so), so they can be together. There are reasons – the degree of loneliness is something I can’t even comprehend – but Aurora’s about-face and sudden willingness to want Jim back in her life (even to give up her dreams) is a little too neat and tidy.
The film is entertaining. It is sleek and stylish and worth a watch. I do wish it had pushed the morality angle harder. 7.5/10
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