“Passengers” could have been one of the movie events of the year. Director Morten Tyldum follows-up his inspiring, “The Imitation Game” with two of the industry’s biggest stars – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt – in a sci-fi action/thriller that’s essentially “Titanic in Space”. But, much like that doomed vessel, nearly everything that could go wrong with this film does.
The concept had potential: Pratt’s Jim Preston (conveniently a high-tech mechanic), is among 5,000 passengers aboard an aircraft traveling from Earth to a distant planet to start a new life. A collision with a meteor causes the ship to malfunction and Jim’s pod to open.
The problem is he wake-up 90 years too soon on this 120-year voyage. For the first half an hour of “Passengers” we watch as Jim first tries to figure-out how to get back to sleep – and then dealing with the knowledge that he’ll die alone before the ship reaches its destination. Oh, he does have one companion – a predictably wise android bartender named Arthur (played by Michael Sheen).
But then along comes Lawrence’s Aurora, no longer is a “sleeping beauty”. Once this Eve joins Adam – well, you can figure out what’s gonna happen next, though they’re not exactly a match made in heaven.
While you want to go on this ride because of the leads and in hopes that something, ANYTHING, interesting and surprising is going to happen, it soon become a lost cause. Every element of the plot is dragged out, as Tyldum never settles into a comfortable rhythm. There’s action, romance, and a few twists, but the tone is so subdued throughout that nothing ever feels important enough to care about.
And the casting a major issue as well. In a film with two main leads (and little else) the actors have to be captivating as stand-alone performers. Pratt doesn’t fit that bill – he’s much better leading an ensemble – and he and Lawrence do not have anything close to on-screen chemistry. And JLaw is simply provided as eye-candy, displayed in scene after scene in skimpy workout clothes, bathing suits and lingerie.
Tyldum makes some awful story choices (including a disaster of a climax). Aside from one unique gravity/water sequence, “Passengers” has nothing fresh to add to the overpopulated interstellar travel genre.
Warning: Do not take this ride, unless you want to go down with the ship. On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Passengers” gets a D+.
Running Time: 116 min.