Thursday, 5 January 2017

Passengers (4 Stars)


I need to be careful writing about this. It's a film still showing in the cinemas, so I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I feel the need to say quite a lot about it. I need to bite my tongue and keep my review to a minimum. Maybe "bite my tongue" is the wrong idiom for a written review? Let's say "cut off my fingers" instead. Don't worry, you can carry on reading, I promise to refrain from spoilers.

The plot: At an undisclosed time in the future mankind has begun to colonise distant planets. A spaceship is underway to a foreign planet called Homestead II, which is also the name of the spaceship. I hope the settlers will pick a better name for the planet when they arrive. The spaceship is carrying 5000 passengers and 30 crew. It's travelling at half light speed, but even at that speed it will take 120 years to arrive, so the passengers and crew are in sleeping pods while the ship travels on auto-pilot.

In the opening scenes we see that the ship is struck by a large meteorite, but it continues on its journey, seemingly unharmed. The only result is that one passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanic, wakes up from his pod. The ship has only been travelling for 30 years, so he has to face the possibility that he will live the rest of his life alone. His only companion is a robot bartender, played by Michael Sheen, who is sickeningly slick, programmed to regurgitate the same bartender banter that's been used for centuries.

After a year in the spaceship Jim can't bear to be alone any more. He finds a beautiful woman lying in one of the pods, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). He manually overrides the controls to wake her up, but doesn't tell her that it was deliberate. He pretends that they both woke up by accident.

That's all I'll say for now. That's the film's premise.

The film has already become a box office success. Maybe it's because of the two popular actors in the lead roles. Maybe it's because of the similarity to "Gravity". Whichever it is, the critics have been less generous. The main criticism is the despicable selfishness of Jim waking up a woman, condemning her to the same fate as himself and forcing himself into her life. I agree that it's bad, but in my opinion the critics just don't get it. They're supposed to be judging the film, not the people in the film. Nobody is perfect. We all have flaws. Just because Jim Preston is the film's main character, the hero, he doesn't have to be right in everything he does. Be honest. What would you do in his situation? If it were me I would probably wake up four or five women to keep me company.

I compare "Passengers" with "Castaway" rather than "Gravity". What did Tom Hanks do when he was alone on the island? Isolation drove him mad, so he made himself a companion by drawing a face on a volleyball. Waking up a living, breathing companion is less insane, whatever the moral isues are.

I've always enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence as an actress. She lives up to her usual standards in this film. Until now I've had mixed feelings about Chris Pratt, but after seeing him in "Passengers" he's won me over. I can't think of any other actors in his age who could have played the role so well.

The first hour of the film is perfect. I could easily have given it five stars if it had ended there. The reason I have to drop a star is based on what happens in the last half hour. That's spoiler territory, so I won't go into it. Nevertheless, it's a film worth watching. Don't let yourself be put off by the critics.

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