For a film set entirely on a space-mall with two main characters, Passengers covers a lot of themes. After the space ship, Avalon, takes a few asteroids to the hull and Chris Pratt's Jim Preston is jolted awake from hibernation, Passengers sails through isolation, obsession, love, betrayal, guilt, death, redemption and a few more of the important components of the human condition. You may be pleasantly surprised to see that this isn't the film the trailer promised. Even when Jennifer Lawrence's (astrologically apt) Aurora Lane decamps from her own hibernation pod and the love story ensues, there's still something uncomfortable looming.
To it's credit, Passengers is brave enough to not be just a simple love story. Titanic-in-Space, this is not (even if there are a few nods to keep lulling you). Sadly, it doesn't have the courage to commit to being subversive or play with our expectations. Even more disappointing, it doesn't look long enough to examine the darker themes.
Shortly after the opening set up, Jim has the haunting realisation that he could be spending the rest of his days alone. He tries everything, like engaging the ship's AI, breaking into the bridge and studying the Avalon's schematics. All to no avail. However, whenever the tone feels like it's in danger of looking into the interesting abyss of despair, we're quickly saved by something amusing. Thankfully, in the every-man hands of Chris Pratt, the beats of humor work well, but if you were looking for something a little more effecting you may feel set adrift in your own wormhole of investment. Although, when Aurora awakes from hibernation, romance between our (literal) star-crossed lovers is not only convincing, but comprises some of the most effective moments in the movie. The relationship builds convincingly between two people that fate probably wouldn't have taken a gamble on in any other setting. What unfolds is a beguiling whirlwind of snapshots, from awkward dancing to breakfast bonking. Yet the weight of guilt threatens the giddy affair and the joy of the capricious courtship give way apprehension. Rarely is anything quite so bittersweet. Flashes of discomfort of what he's done dance across Jim's face at the most intimate moments or Aurora's confessions of the heart.
Then, after the seductive second act, the third act is disappointingly heavy-handed. While it may not be in a rush to get to the climax, it seems to switch on the autopilot come the emotional beats. While an unexpected guest adds the proposition of atonement for Jim, it's no sooner mentioned as it is seemingly forgotten. A few last words are meant to galvanise the couple, but feels unearned. As a result the resolution is a hollow one. Even If you're still on-board the Avalon emotionally, there's still something uneasily convenient about how everything comes together. If you've disembarked along with your feelings in the final moments, you'll be heading toward the Cynical System.
Whether it's studio interference, poor decisions or just lack of courage, the engine room of Passengers may have had something a little more challenging and thus more satisfying.
3* - Blew Romance