PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

Once featured on The Black List’s best unproduced screenplays (originally to be made with Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon), Jon Spaihts’ Passengers is a film about the troubles of isolation, solitude and the moral arguments of self-sacrifice, all glossed over thanks to high production values and handsome leads in both Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. This, in some ways, is some indication as to what lies at the heart of the film’s problems, being the classic case of all style but no substance. Granted, the ideas are present, but Passengers never follows through on those concepts, and what we have is a film that is solid and entertaining enough, if somewhat lacking in edge and depth.

While the movie gets off to an impressive start, the story slowly falls apart progressively after that, and a lot of the major, crucial events that end up transpiring, as well as the reasons that are given, end up feeling far too convenient as a result. Laurence Fishburne’s character, for example, is only included just to be a glorified deus ex machina. There are multiple contrivances and occasional plot holes scattered throughout, which all culminates in an overblown final act that feels the need to trump both Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian’s big finales in terms of size and scale, and the so-called ‘happy ending’ is just dire. Apparently, Spaihts’ original ending was to have been a lot darker and more mature than what we got on screen, which makes this new ending feeling very obvious and forced in execution. Also, on a minor note: why the hell was Andy Garcia in this movie for a fleeting, non-speaking cameo?!

With many issues plaguing the film, there is still enjoyment to be found in the film. The visual design of this movie is impressive; the design of the interiors and exterior of the Avalon spaceship is truly remarkable and unique in design and execution. Plus, some of these sets prove to be crucial to some impressive sequences, particularly the inventive swimming sequence within zero gravity. To add to that, Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is simply stunning and Thomas Newman’s score is inspiring and inventive.

But, the main selling point of this movie is the romantic duo of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, and together they do the best with what’s given to them, even if it’s not really enough. Pratt manages to pull of the average guy shtick convincingly well, making us buy into his inner struggles, desires,and demons, whilst still maintaining his trademark likeability factor. Despite receiving top-billing, Lawrence gets less screen time than Pratt, yet she still manages to give off a solid, emotionally-investing performance that almost makes us forgive her for her phoned-in turn in X-Men Apocalypse. Together, the chemistry is strong, yet it’s Michael Sheen that almost steals the show right from under their noses as the suave and cool, yet optimistic and delightful robot bartender of the ship. 

Overall, while Passengers isn’t a bad movie in any way, there are teething problems that prevent it from being the legendary and epic sci-fi romance it could’ve been. Whether those problems lay with Jon Spaihts, director Morten Tyldum, or the exec-suits at Sony remains to be seen, but what we have is a gorgeously shot, brilliantly acted, extremely ambitious movie that only ends up being nothing more than just okay. There is fun to be found, but when is all said and done, the eyes may be sated, but the brain’s still craving.


Expected Rating: 9 out of 10
Actual Rating: 

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+2 #1 Antonio 2016-12-30 22:14
I've just seen it, and I could not agree more. It is visually stunning and the acting is excellent, but it's very lacking in substance. I found myself always waiting for the deep, dark, emotional part and I was never satiated. They glance over interesting topics, but never develop them enough.

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