Movie Review: “Passengers”

passengers

“Passengers” – a film review by Gary Chew

It must be addressed at the outset: I’d see any movie that has music in it that’s been written by Thomas Newman, son of another Newman film score composer with a first name of Alfred. That’s even if the movie isn’t worth an “Open the pod bay door, Hal!”

PassengersHappily, Passengers is way worth more than such an entry and exit portal. Terrific sci-fi entertainment is what it is, for the whole family. The language is pretty non-blue… and the love scenes are done with restraint and class. How could that not be so since Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are the only (almost) two film stars in this picture, directed by the Norwegian filmmaker, Morten Tyldum? Tyldum did an earlier movie that might be better than Passengers, though. Remember The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley? Good WWII techie espionage material.

Passengers has a script that’s anything but unique, for if you’ve seen any number of films that feature one or two, or a small crew of rocketeers stranded in space, you’re all set for Tyldum’s latest. However, the action-packed (as they say) twists and romantic flourishes added to this picture’s script by Jon Spaihts will maintain your vector. (I’m guessing the name “Spaihts” is pronounced almost like the word “space,” but with a “ts” sound at the end: Spayts?).

PassengersJim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) are in suspended animation on a large space vessel that puts the Enterprise to shame. Something akin to an electrical malfunction causes the pod Pratt’s taking (what was planned to be) a “90-year long winter’s nap in” to awake him. With a jolt, he awakens with nobody “home,” just a lot of out-of-it space passengers like himself under the transparent covers of their pods with eyes shut, but not “wide.” Holy La sonnambula, Batman.

Jim roams the giant ship trying to find the reason he’ll be alone for the rest of his life, then die before it even gets to its sort of “New Earth” planet destination. An inadvertent tour of the big, rolling rig out in the void allows you and me to get the techie skinny as to just how huuuge this baby is. There is solace for Jim, though: the Homestead Corporation (a la Trump) has thought of everything for their passengers who pay big bucks to traverse space at half light speed to a new world and life well after and beyond Mother Earth.

PassengersThe Homestead folks, probably situated in a tall tower near the Hudson River, with their voiced-over attendants speaking from pre-recorded hologram figures, as well as other totally awesome accommodations, have provided their patrons a fancy bar with a really nice guy of a bartender, named Arthur (Michael Sheen). He keeps the wine always chilled… and the drinks really refreshed; all applied by him with aplomb and the best of manners… most of the time. It will be difficult not to notice how unique Arthur’s legs seem and how he maneuvers so quickly and efficiently behind the bar.

PassengersDon’t expect things to settle down and get spacey-dreamy for Jim and Aurora after they realize that it ain’t so bad to be in a super well-equipped space machine with almost free food and all the necessary accommodations just made for a cool guy and a really hot gal who does her “Jennifer Lawrence” thing swell and strikingly. It was about half way through the film that I finally came upon what other actors, I think, Pratt resembles. Would you believe the best features one could come up with that are a mixed facial bag of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ben Affleck? Really.

Yes, surprises are on the agenda. Things we don’t know about are given rise to that pitch everyone into a flaming, chaotic tizzy. We’re not sure how things are going to turn out for Jim … and even Aurora, especially when it comes time for the lovers to take what NASA calls an EVA together. All film nuts refer to such Extravehicular Activity as a “Gary Lockwood.” It occurs at the end of this film that’s not titled, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where are George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, now that we really need them?

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Gary Chew
Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.