Movie Review: Passengers (Spoilers)

As I was watching Passengers unfold, I couldn’t help but think about marketing. It became quite clear that in creating trailers, the mission is to sell a movie to audiences. But it doesn’t have to be the movie you are about to see. In this case, they sold a film that was a romance thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as two strangers stuck on a spaceship, where they fall in love and solve a mystery.

Despite actually having great interest in the marketing department’s version of the film, it is not a romance film. Not entirely, at least. It is far more complex and interesting than that. ! Passengers is a film about loneliness. More accurately, it is about the mental side effects of loneliness. After the starship experiences a few glitches, Pratt’s Jim finds himself awake, destined by a mishap to live a solitary life on a planet-bound cruise ship that has only traveled a third of its 120 yearlong journey to a colonized planet called Homestead II. His sole companion is not Jennifer Lawrence, but a mechanical bartender played by Michael Sheen.

The name of the love interest played by Ms. Lawrence, Aurora Lane, clues us in to her character’s role in the film. Aurora is also the name of the famous fairy tale character and Disney princess more popularly known as Sleeping Beauty, and one of the best aspects of the film is that she isn’t introduced until about a half hour in, which doesn’t diminish Lawrence’s role in the film — quite the contrary actually — but amplifies Pratt’s, as we are given the time to truly understand what his character feels and wonder what it would be like to be in his shoes. You can sense the loneliness the character feels and his desire for human companionship, particularly in a scene where he rests his head on an empty space suit.

While roaming the ship alone, Jim comes across Aurora’s pod and develops a somewhat uncomfortable obsession. But is it uncomfortable? Putting ourselves in his position, would we do what he does? Would we consider waking up a person, dooming them to the same fate? It sounds horrible and most of us would say “No!” right now, but what would we really do in that situation? For me, this internal debate was the highlight of the film. The answer, of course, is no, I don’t think so. Well, maybe. I’m not sure. I’d probably think about it. Oh no, what kind of person am I? Okay, no. Well..argh!

No, of course not. Anyways …. Jim opens her pod. Dooms her. And then the film develops a guilt-ridden romance. But is it a romance or a fling resulting from schemes and circumstance? I found myself wondering that a lot throughout the second act. You see, Aurora and Jim are the only two human beings that are awake. Had there been another person, would it be the same? I love the mental jog this film gave me.

Ultimately, with a little bit of dues ex machina in the third act, the film that wasn’t advertised becomes the film that was, mostly ditching the cause and effect built up in the first two acts, as well as my mental workouts. Granted, that was the film I paid to see and would have been glad to see had the other two thirds of the film not taken us on a different journey. Because of this, things happen that matter, but probably should matter more. Characters are introduced that should have significance, but don’t.

And so, this where I become critical, but hopefully in a constructive manner. I feel like the only human beings in the film should have been Jim and Aurora. They should have been allowed to solve things naturally. And this is where the film goes from being a great experience to an okay one. However, maybe that is not a film that people wanted to see.

Passengers is still a positive experience for me. It took me on a mental ride, had me questioning my own resolve for a time, even if it went to auto-pilot towards the end.

Author: Josh Kelhoffer

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