Wednesday 4 January 2017

Film: 'Passengers'

Could hardly have wished for a more promising start to another year of cinema-going. When I first read what this was going to be about the story grabbed me - and on screen it's realised to near-perfection - though it hasn't been particularly well received by some critics. (Still, how would they know?) It's a terrific idea and one that is, so far as I'm aware, quite original.

It's set entirely in space on an enormous rotating ship transporting 5,000 passengers plus over 200 crew on a 120 year journey to colonise another planet, all of them sleeping through that time in individual hibernation pods. Okay, as expected in space-themed films, our first view is of the ship rumbling through airless (and therefore soundless!) space, followed by a series of combustive explosions (ho-hum!). But putting all that aside (filmic convention sometimes seems to dictate that an audience is not particularly intelligent), these disturbances provide the catalyst for the story, when a single one of the passengers (Chris Pratt) is awoken because of a computer malfunction, though there's yet another ninety years to transpire before arriving at the destination - and he's without the means to resume his hibernation. 
His only 'awake' companion is an android, a speaking and emoting bartender (Michael Sheen - with shades of the bartender scenes in Kubrick's 'The Shining') with human-looking top half only, otherwise gliding about hither and thither on wheels behind the bar, and eternally polishing up drinking glasses.
After a year of living without genuine human companionship Pratt is eventually joined by another passenger (Jennifer Lawrence), whose awakening and how she finds out about it I shan't elaborate on, as I also won't explain the appearance of a third wakened human being. Needless to say, romance between Pratt and Lawrence develops, at least up to point - resulting in a few treacly moments, mainly towards the film's end, but such episodes are sensibly kept in proportion.

Mention of the ship's location, its speed and the time elapsed since departure are figures which just don't compute to anything like what they ought to be (as I've now verified through Internet searches) though in the context of the story it's not material. And passing a star en route (in just a few seconds!) why isn't the view of it through an observation window rotating as the entire ship is turning? 
However, the special effects both inside the ship and in space are really stunning and I only wish I'd seen the film on a giant screen - and in 3D (though I don't think that format is available). But even as it is it still carries one hell of a visual punch.

Norwegian director Morgen Tyldum has pulled another rabbit out of the hat with this film. He already has 'The Imitation Game' (2014) and the marvellous 'Headhunters' of 2011 to his credit, and here comes yet another one deserving of meritorious consideration. He also gets superb performances from all four members of this cast. 

I don't exaggerate by claiming this to be, despite some decidedly sniffy reviews, the most impressive space-located film I've seen in, well, decades..............8


  1. Many of the reviews i have read about this have been so so....
    I do so appreciate mr pratt and his charm.....i shall go and see it

    1. I'm pleased you'll be going, J.G. I was aware that reviews have not been enthusiastic - and I've just added a few words to my final sentence above to that effect. But I'll be most interested in your opinion, and if you agree that the idea is (surprisingly) unexplored on film up to now.

  2. I've heard bad things about this, but then i read your review and it sounds intriguing.
    I'll follow you!

    1. Thank you, Bob. I can only hope that if you do see it because of my own high opinion it won't disappoint you.
      Btw: I can also mention that, recalling (I think) that you are an admirer of Mr Pratt, there are a couple of brief (briefless?) views of said actor's bare rump - if you like that sort of thing, of course. ;-)

  3. Ray,
    I've heard about this movie and I like Jennifer Lawrence. Based on your enthusiastic review I shall see this movie.

    1. It's getting widely disparate reviews, Ron. All I can say is that despite my thoughts on its scientific inaccuracies (a minority, I'd guess) I nevertheless liked it a lot - in particular its originality of story. I'm pleased you're giving it a go but I have to say that it must gain by seeing it on a big screen. I wonder if Pat saw and liked.