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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Passengers 2016 * * * Stars

PassengersDirector: Morten Tyldum
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen

Jennifer Lawrence is a big movie star. Chris Pratt is a newly appointed movie star. With the exception of Michael Sheen playing an android and Laurence Fishburne making a brief appearance as a Chief Deck Officer, they are the only two players featured in Passengers (my latest review).

Morten Tyldum directs Passengers which is sort of like Cast Away in outer space. Just imagine Tom Hanks but with a friend to play with (not a volleyball), unlimited resources of food and water, and freedom from inclement weather. Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar two years ago with 2014's The Imitation Game. Who would've thought he'd be the perfect choice to reinvent the sci-fi wheel. In Passengers, he provides something fresh with his technical efficiency and resplendent attention to detail. There are plenty of nifty space-age gadgets, glossy special effects, and perpetual motion here. The budget of $110 million is well spent for this is a great looking film.

Notice that I haven't mentioned Lawrence and Pratt for a whole paragraph. Sorry about that. I mean, they do have decent chemistry as co-stars. JLaw is indeed a solid actress. For most of Passengers, she's sexy and smoldering, appealing and pinpointed. Then comes the climatic moments in the film when she has to emote via actual peril and distress. Lawrence's tone feels out of place in these moments. She may be the wrong ingredient for a science fiction thriller (I've never seen The Hunger Games so I could be wrong). As for Chris Pratt, well he's a big thing now, an almost A-lister. He can just go through the motions and get the job done. His screen presence is ample enough to carry Passengers (ha ha). I'll just call his performance the veritable, Harrison Ford approach.

Image result for Passengers 2016 movie scenesNow why am I saying all this? Well for good reason. The actors/actresses almost take a back seat to Tyldum's vision. He makes sci-fi coldness and sci-fi gimmickry relevant for this year. His Passengers is Kubrickian. His Passengers is darkened infinitude. In the end, everything pretty much works itself out. Critics in general have been hard on Passengers for various rationales. Once you see it you'll agree that they need to lighten up.

Containing bartender scenes straight from the annals of The Shining, harboring a little humor, and distributed by Columbia Pictures, Passengers chronicles mechanical engineer, Jim Preston (Pratt). Preston is on a spaceship called Avalon. Avalon recently left Earth and is now on course to go to a planet called Homestead II. This journey is going to take 120 years and said ship is carrying over 5000 people. Everyone is sleeping in hibernation pods but here's the problem: Jim's pod malfunctions and he awakes 90 years too early. Oops. Preston spends many days keeping himself busy and realizing that he may die on Avalon before it gets to its destination. He gets lonely and against his conscience, decides to wake up another passenger in Aurora Lane (Lawrence). The two of them connect, have some sexy time, and continue to figure out ways to fall back to sleep in their pods. Jim initially doesn't tell Aurora he sabotaged her life. He selfishly falls for her. First, by reading Aurora's bio and then by having a face to face meeting with her.

Essentially, Passengers is a love story with an ending that I wouldn't have wanted. Hey, whatever. If you are willing to spend the next nine decades with just the guy you dig and a robotic barkeep (spoiler), then more power to ya. A critic on Rotten Tomatoes mentioned that this film had something to do with Stockholm syndrome. Yup, he'd be right on that one.

Image result for Passengers 2016 movie scenesAll in all, Passengers is a flick cut from original cloth. It has been rumored to be based on a book but hey, that's just a rumor. It promotes a sterile facade, an upmarket look, and a dreaded feel. Ultimately, this vehicle will keep you interested and on the edge of yearning for hope. Granted, Passengers is not as deep as say Interstellar (another sci-fi film about the passage of time) nor is it strong in terms of its final act. However, you could do a lot worse when it comes to the aspect of holiday viewing. My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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