dir Morten Tyldum
scr Jon Spaihts
prd Neal H Moritz, Stephen Hamel, Michael Maher, Ori Marmur
with Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Emma Clarke, Fred Melamed, Kimberly Battista, Aurora Perrineau, Vince Foster, Julee Cerda, Jean-Michel Richaud
release US/UK 21.Dec.16
16/US Columbia 1h56
Wide awake: Pratt and Lawrence

sheen fishburne garcia
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Passengers In this enjoyably robust movie, a clever premise cycles through a variety of genres, from sci-fi odyssey to romantic-comedy to dark drama to action thriller. So it's a little frustrating that, despite toying with some intriguing ideas, the movie ultimately feels rather thin. Still, it's skilfully shot and acted to hold the audience's attention right to the final twist.

Only 30 years into a 120-year trip to a distant homestead planet, James (Pratt) is the only passenger woken from hibernation aboard the spacecraft Avalon. Unable to put himself back to sleep, he alternates between living the high life and wallowing in a suicidal funk until he finds himself unable to resist awakening another passenger, Aurora (Lawrence). Their life together isn't too bad, considering the circumstances, but then a crew member (Fishburne) also wakes up, discovering a fatal flaw in the ship's system. Can they fix it and save the other 5,000 sleeping passengers?

The only other character is the grinning robotic barman Arthur (Sheen), which kind of leaves it feeling like a stage play, with its limited cast and settings. But director Tyldum expands the visuals with elements like a windowed swimming pool and Gravity-style spacewalks. The Avalon is basically a souped-up cruiseliner with luxuries for upper class passengers (like writer Aurora) and more basic services in steerage (mechanic James). But then, people are only supposed to live here for a month or so before arrival, not 90 years.

Pratt has the focal role, and anchors the film with a generous performance as a thoughtful guy who's smarter than he thinks he is. By contrast, Lawrence is more wary, a woman with sharp instincts. The chemistry between them is strong, adding a terrific romantic edge to both the lighter and darker sequences. Sheen provides some comical relief as well as a bit of dramatic tension, while Fishburne gives the entire film a warm human touch.

While there are big themes here about survival and identity, plus an undercurrent of commercialisation with the nature of the shipping company, where the story goes isn't particularly resonant. And in the final act, the movie slips into fairly standard action mode. It looks amazing, and the cast continue to inject their vivid personalities into each situation, but it's increasingly impossible for the audience to identify with the decisions they need to make. So it ends up being a movie you sit back and enjoy without feeling anything too personally.

cert 12 themes, violence, somesexuality 15.Dec.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall