By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
I thought the set design is terrific to look at in Passengers, and the real world physics of space travel plausible. This movie got me wondering about the world being left behind. Is the Earth overpopulated and only the rich can afford to leave? The starship Avalon is a luxury cruise ship that Jim (Chris Pratt) finds himself in. Little does he know is that it is slowly malfunctioning–the reason behind his sudden awakening from hibernation–and had he investigated, he might have repaired the vehicle sooner than later.
In what he learns instead is the fact that he will not live long enough to arrive in a new world. He’s a drowning man. That’s until one day, he finds the girl of his dreams (Jennifer Lawrence) and makes the terrible decision to awaken her. She’s an accomplished journalist and has a story to tell, but will it involves Jim? Most likely not, but just what is love exactly?
Enough has been said about how this movie turns the growing romance into Stockholm syndrome — the captured eventually identifies and even loves the captor. Yes, this aspect makes this movie problematical, and subject to debate. But isn’t that what a good movie should do? When it gets audiences talking, the question of morality can make for water cooler talk.
Jim is a troubled man. He’s playing with fate and questions if he can play god or not. In doing so, is he a devil or simply a drowning man? Was his “love” genuine? I get the sense he did so out of not living the remainder of his life in utter despair. Many moralists will denounce him, and he’s felt the guilt. Director Morten Tyldum did a great job in giving this actor the motivations required to make this story work.
While Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is not as forgiving, their relationship is tempestuous when she learns how she was awakened early. I like her non-blockbuster film work more than those franchise products she’s appeared in, namely X-Men and Hunger Games. The way she plays newly created characters have more substance to their development than a franchise one simply because there are other experiences for the performer to draw on to sell it.
While the film is nothing new, I thought it fell into exploring the Florence Nightingale effect too. The sci-fi romance was mediocre at best, but the action (when the captain wakes up) became derivative because the plot was too predictable. In order for the love to be true, somebody has to sacrifice him or herself to save the day. One song comes to mind after seeing this film. “You Can’t Hurry Love” no matter how it comes to be. When a couple starts to question if their romance is genuine You Can’t Buy Everything (1934) either. If there’s supposed to be a moral to this film, it’s to question every action you make — no matter what the decision, there are consequences.
2 Stars out of 5