Passengers, unspoiled

News about this film spread fast on its release overseas, so you may well have already read a lot about Passengers. Even so, I’m not going to give anything away here, so if it’s an unspoiled view you’re after, read on.

For my part, all the criticism is somewhat misplaced. First, this is a well produced and fantastic looking drama set in space. Its leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, command attention on screen with ease and skill. Lawrence’s acting talents are well proven and she brings her usual level of excellence to the role of author Aurora Lane. Pratt, as mechanical engineer James (call him Jim) Preston, brings more to the table than he did (or was required to do) in other big budget adventure films we’ve seen him in such as Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy.

And Michael Sheen’s performance as Arthur is beautifully weighted and timed, and offers a superb foil to the leads.

The drama weaves its way through sci fi thriller and mystery to romance, and sometimes you’re not sure what genre of film you’re watching. Mind you, this may not be a bad thing. Keeping your audience on the back foot is keeping them engaged.

If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know that our two main characters appear alone on a spaceship, and the question is how did this happen, what sort of trouble are they in, and how does this play out in their relationship. I’ll add just a little more. They are passengers and intended colonists heading towards a new planet, travelling aboard a private spaceship with five thousand other such passengers and a few hundred crew. Everyone is in hibernation and the ship runs on automatic, but something happens early on which will disrupt their peaceful passage.

So, let’s get to the clamour of criticism, which seems to be in two parts. First, that the nature of the story is not at all what the trailer suggests, and secondly that the story has a decidedly nasty side, one that doesn’t warrant the ending the film delivers.

As far as the trailer goes, I for one am happy for any trailer not to give too much away. In fact, not to give anything away. I’ll go further and say I don’t mind being misled if it means the experience of seeing the whole movie means I’m in for a surprise. The last thing I want, the very last thing, is to go into a film knowing what to expect. A lot of times if I see a film coming up that I am pretty sure I want to see, I will try very hard to ignore the trailer altogether. So, if you feel let down by the trailer for Passengers, well, tough luck I say.

The other criticism is more interesting. Is this story in some way celebrating something in human nature it should be vilifying? You can argue that, sure, but not all “heroes” behave well all the time, and a story where everyone follows a moral code which leads to a positive and uplifting conclusion runs a big risk of being boring.

More importantly, the criticism is surely missing the point here. Yes, one character faces a huge dilemma and acts in a way many will disapprove of. The unpleasant and unsettling nature of this is at the core of the whole film. Take this away and you take away the story. That said, story loses its nerve at the end, where the character with the said huge dilemma does not get an outcome which seems the most appropriate. And I think in doing this, the film makers try to wrap it all up rather too nicely and neatly.

But before it gets to its finale Passengers offers an engaging mix of drama and suspense, and romantic ups and downs. And it poses a moral question worth an earnest chat over a beverage afterwards. It’s worth seeing. And if anything, make the controversy an extra reason for buying a ticket, and then make up your own mind.

 

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