Reviews: Passengers 2016

90% there. Removing 10% of the movie and sticking with the main theme could have made it great.

Passengers is a good film, but not perfect. In fact, it's like they suddenly tried to steer away from it being a great film and charged straight into mediocre at the end.

For the first part of the film, Chris Pratt does an amazing job portraying a man alone on a ship. From confusion to curiosity to horror to freedom to despair, he demonstrates an amazing range and the film displays it realistically.

Then Jennifer Lawrence's character comes into the mix, and again, she also shows great range. Their interaction and relationship builds wonderfully.

And then there's the big kicker, which I won't discuss because spoilers. But you know it is going to happen, and the tension builds up to that moment well.

And again, great acting by both the leads in their reactions. It's fantastic, realistic, and it hits hard. And it really will leave you thinking about the choices, the relationship, everything. Even if you don't agree with them, you can definitely understand and sympathize with them. And that's amazing. But... then the movie takes a left turn.

Now comes the 10% of the movie. Hey look, a disaster! You know what that means. Relationship-Salvaging Disaster ahoy! Much like the problem with superhero films that threaten the destruction of the entire world with a giant beam of light in the sky - you know the film can't possibly end with the ship actually being destroyed. So while it adds some action, I didn't feel nearly as much tension from the spaceship being threatened compared to their relationship.

In short, I think I would have liked to see the relationship develop naturally rather than an external force basically "forcing" something to happen. I honestly think it would have been more interesting that way.

Still, I think it's an enjoyable film overall. Tightly focused on two characters, well acted by both, set in a futuristic setting that definitely hints at far, far more for your imagination to play with. It starts off with a hard question to make you think, but unfortunately, it kind of just... drops that question in favour of an easy, forced conclusion that almost feels like cheating. And in the end, I kind of feel cheated. I wanted something thoughtful. It started off thoughtful. Then it throws away thoughtful in favour of run-of-the-mill.

Additional discussion: If I had it my way, I would have downplayed the ship-disaster a lot. While the happy ending feels nice, I would have gone for a more "circular" ending: Let Pratt's character die while Lawrence's character still hates him. In his absence, she remembers how much she loved him. And then she's living alone for another year. Or two. And then end with her standing in front of another pod, with the emergency manual, debating with herself whether she is willing to do exactly the same thing...). That's how I would have done it, at least. YMMV.

So let\'s talk about Passengers

First: the easy stuff.

Visually, Passengers is an absolutely fantastic movie with a sleek, futuristic look and grade-a acting all around. And it's nice to have a sci-fi story where the ridiculously rich megacorp doesn't turn out to be evil.

Now the complicated part.

Thematically, the movie admittedly gets a lot more simplified at the movie as the Impending Crisis takes center stage and the messed up relationship of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence is forced down the road of reconciliation. Which is fine and the movie has to end somehow, but at the same time the themes of the story make a drastic turn which can understandably be off-putting to some.

My ado has been made about Pratt's character Jim choosing to wake up Lawrence's character Aurora, effectively condemning her to die alone with him on a ship with minimal means of other interaction. And it is indeed a massive ethical lapse on Jim's part and the movie put about as much effort as it can showing both Jim's struggle with it, and also the inevitable fallout once the Truth comes out.

And that theme of loneliness is front and center in the first and second acts of the film; and kudos on Pratt for an excellent performance. You can really buy into the depths of depressions he sinks to living an empty life alone, along with that lingering feeling of regret that bitters his happiness when he wakes Aurora. Similarly, Lawrence's own performance when she learns the truth, with a mix of disbelief, betrayal, sadness, and anger is great. Frankly the best role I've seen of hers (though there's gaps in what I've seen of her filmography so yeah).

Honestly, it's those first two acts that occupy my thoughts the most now thinking back on it. What I would do if I were in Jim's position, free of any kind of worry about any kind of external crisis. And with more than 50+ years to grapple with it, I'm not sure I wouldn't change my mind somewhere down the line. I'm not sure if anyone wouldn't change their mind.

I don't know. Maybe the writers wanted a happy ending. Maybe there was some editorial mandate. Maybe it's just supposed to be complex and messed up because the world is itself a messy, imperfect world. Maybe it's a reminder that "protagonist" does not have to entail "hero" and people are similarly flawed.

Ultimately I came out of the theater with a lot of complex feelings about Passengers, but that's a good thing. It sticks with me. Makes me think about myself, both my virtues and failings. What I'd do in that situation versus what others would. Definitely worth seeing for anyone up for these kinds of things.
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