Sunday 12 February 2017

Passengers by Jon Spaihts

Warning, this post may contain spoilers. And fulsome praise. Well, let's get right to it. I loved Passengers. If you're a fan of science fiction movies, or indeed just movies, you should go and see this. 

It's the tale of a star ship on a century-long journey to a new planet. So that they don't arrive dead of old age, which would be a bummer, all the passengers are in deep hibernation. 

None of this is new. But writer John Spaihts has taken the basic situation and come up with some clever, fresh angles and fashioned a powerful and compelling drama. 

(Spaihts previously worked on the scripts for Doctor Strange, which I liked a great deal. And Prometheus, which I didn't.)

As with Allied, the trailer for Passengers is wildly misleading. It makes us think that two of the hibernating passengers Aurora and Jim (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) have awakened prematurely.

Indeed it even contains a line of dialogue which I don't think is in the finished movie — "We must have woken up for a reason."

But the actual film is nothing like this. Jim does accidentally awaken early — like 90 years too soon. Since there is no way he can get back to sleep he will live and die alone in the echoing corridors of this vast star ship.

Jim wrestles with his dilemma, and ultimately succumbs to temptation and wakes up a companion for himself, the alluring Aurora. Of course, he has now condemned her to an impoverished existence in the echoing corridors, etc.

This aspect of the story has caused Passengers to come in for a lot of flack because of Jim's behaviour. Which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the story. We aren't invited to approve of what he does. 

In fact we share his torment as he wrestles with temptation — which he does for a good long time — and when he gives in, it gives the viewer a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. And the terrible knowledge of what will happen if and when Aurora finds out what has been done to her...

Passengers is a great movie, and full of wonderful stuff. Like Michael Sheen's smiling robot bartender (a close relative of the creepy ghost bartender in The Shining). Or the hilarious, and horrible, class-war aspect of Jim being doomed to cruddy food because he doesn't have a premium ticket on the star ship (Aurora on the other hand is first class all the way). 

And then, best of all, is what happens if you're using the swimming pool on a space vessel and the artificial gravity cuts out.

Passengers has its flaws, like the malarkey about there only being one automated medical unit (on a ship with over five thousand passengers and crew!). 

But I'm more than willing to forgive it that. It's a thrilling science fiction adventure with a powerful human drama built into its heart.

I loved it.

(Image credits: The posters are from Imp Awards.)

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