Sunday, 25 December 2016

#85 PASSENGERS


Starring Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Micheal Sheen and Lawrence Fishburne and Andy Garcia. Written by Jon Sapihts and directed by Morten Tyldum. Budget $110 million. Running time 116 minutes. Cert 12A.  

(WARNING... WARNING... WARNING. THE FOLLOW DESCRIPTION CONTAINS SPOILERS. THE WRITER HAS TRIED HARD NOT TOO REVEAL TOO MUCH AND YOU COULD PROBABLY READ THE FIRST PARAGRAPH WITHOUT FEAR OF DAMAGING THE PLOT OR REVEALING TOO MUCH. HOWEVER THE SECOND PARAGRAPH, ALAS, SORT OF GIVES IT AWAY, BUT NOT GRATUITOUSLY.)

When the starship Avalon is seriously damaged in an asteroid strike 30 years into its 120 mission to the planet Homestead II it triggers a series of system failures that starts with the malfunction of mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt)'s sleep pod and ends with a race against time to stop the sleeping spaceship exploding thus killing the other 5000 odd passengers. For a good hour of the film, we are in the single company of Pratt as he comes to terms with being marooned on an intergalactic flying desert island traveling at half the speed of light with only a robotic barman for company. He becomes fluent at speaking Japanese with the sushi restaurant's robot staff, claiming the top 100 best dance off high scores on the 3d video game, plundering the vast stocks of resources and growing a beard while going slowly mad.

In an act of desperation, Preston makes a terrible decision that will have a profound effect of everyone onboard the ship, none more so than for Jennifer Lawrence's Aurora Lane, a writer on a return trip to write a book about the sort of people who make the trip. Over the next year the two grow close and fall in love and then on the anniversary of her awakening, she discovers Preston's terrible secret and their worlds collide.

However the ship is severely damaged and the two years worth of 'cascading' failures that have blighted the trip finally fatally spiral out of control leading to the forementioned race against time to stop the ship from exploding and our two star-crossed lovers are forced to work together to save the day.

SPOILER WARNING OVER

This type of film succeeds or fails on the chemistry and charisma of its leads and in this case the film makers have shrewdly cast two of the most beautiful and charismatic actors of their generation to carry the film and carry it they do. They have a nature ease with each other and they're pretty easy on the eye too. There's not much to say about the plot of the film, apart from the terrible emotional dilemma at the heart of it, the rest is just watching two people slowly falling in love while their spaceship slowly falls to pieces around them. After that, there's the requisite 3rd act race against time action sequence and a subtle, sombre ending as we watch the ship glide off into deep space.

Along the way though we have a slow, subtle film about a relationship and isolation set onboard a beautifully designed futuristic IKEA spaceship and featuring a wonderful soundtrack.

I have to say I found this immensely engaging and engrossing, I'd have been happy without the necessity of the action element of this film, it plays like a live action remake of Wall-E, without the cute trash compactor, crossed with Silent Running and I don't mean that in a negative way. With stunning special effects and superb set designs which throw out nods (indeed more than one such nod to the cult horror/sci-fi movie, Event Horizon) to dozens of other movies from The Shining to Titanic and 2001 a Space Odyssey. The interesting thing about this film is that you can actually see where the plot itself changed during the films making and there are several distinct places where it could have gone in utterly different directions. For example, with a subtle rewriting, this so easily could have been a chilling thriller or horror film and the ending could have been one of many, including one that could have ended in a far more dramatic way.

My family rated this from 7/10 all the way up to 10/10. Me personally, I was hooked, and not just because I love Jennifer Lawrence and want to marry her, nor that I have a bit of a man crush on Chris Pratt.

This won't be everyone's cup of tea as the varied reviews have thus far proven, but for me I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to seeing it again. This is at times moving, funny, entertaining and exciting and helped in no small part by the fact it's two stars are just so goddam hot!

But be warned, this is the very definition of a slow burn movie, despite the ship itself traveling at half the speed of light the pace is staggeringly slow and languid but after a diet of relentless action films this felt like just a breath of fresh air in the cold vacuum of space.

8/10

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