Passengers 

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Since Rogue One came out a week ago their has been some comment on how lots of the footage that featured in the multiple trailers wasn’t used in the final film. This is not evidence of an uncertain story plan and panicked last minute rewrites, as some pedestal pushers have suggested. It is simply that the marketing people get all the early clips and put them together as they like without necessarily knowing the plot of the film. This means that trailers can sometimes appear to be promoting very different movies.

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The same has happened with Passengers. As the previews suggested it is about two people, among thousands, who wake up from suspended animation around one hundred years early while on an interstellar journey to relocate on another planet. From watching the promo clips you’d also correctly pick up that there is something wrong with the ship. What it isn’t is an action packed, mysterious, futuristic, post democracy conspiracy thriller with our heroes battling corporate and governmental cover ups as in all those young adult dystopia stories. It may have Jennifer Lawrence but it’s not The Hunger Games in space. Even the film’s tag line ‘There is a reason they woke up’, while technically correct, is totally misleading. Nope, Passengers is not the movie you think it is, fun as that might of been. It is actually better, and in some respects, darker than that. 

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More than anything else the film is a romance but it isn’t at all sentimental. Its main focus is the relationship between the two characters; Chris Pratt as Jim and Lawrence as Aurora (a deliberate reference to Sleeping Beauty no doubt). In examining the way their forced friendship develops it seem to be looking at relationships on a broader level. Even though the circumstances they find themselves in are very particular to them, there will be much about the way they flirt, share experiences, develop mutual interests, argue, have secrets and selfish motivations and rely on each other that will be familiar to many. Without such charismatic leads it may not have worked but as it is spending time with them is compelling. 

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Of course their particular circumstances add a significant additional dimension to proceedings. They are effectively the only two people alive on a huge floating palace. All of their needs are catered for (it’s lucky the on board computer and facilities came back on line too) and there are top notch recreational activities from the ultimate infinity pool to a bar staffed by a robot Michael Sheen. The design of the spacecraft is stunning (the Starship Enterprise is a Ryan Air jet compared to this) and the views out of the window are pretty spectacular.

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Fortunately when things do start to go wrong mid flight it is an exciting extension of the film’s dynamic rather than a distraction from it. As events progress there are a number of possible outcomes and you are never quite sure which way it is going to go. Passengers isn’t a tricksy smart sci-fi like Arrival or a rip roaring adventure like Rogue One but it sits very nicely between the two with elements of both. Get on board and go for the ride.

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The Katniss Factor:
Lawrence certainly plays a strong female character in this film and she moves the action on but I think she is a little too objectified. The camera enhances the beauty of everything in the film, the smooth corridors of the ship, the spacescapes and the two lead actors. There are a few shots of Pratt in a dressed down state, in the shower or the bed, but it doesn’t feel equal with the treatment of her. She is often seen in a swim suit or a slinky dress and this film focuses on her appearance in a way that The Hunger Games never did. 

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There is something else to say concerning the gender politics in this film but to address this would require the discussion of major plot points. (You may even want to skip this little bit if you’ve not seen the movie.) Some critics have had an issue with this aspect of the film and it is good that they have but I didn’t think it was a problem, I thought it was the whole point. It is actually one of the most interesting elements of the narrative and I don’t believe the behaviours in question are supposed to be easily accepted or advocated as some commentators fear they are.

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Is this one for the kids?
Passengers is rated 12A and I think that is right. It is suitable for teens and above. It isn’t that it is particularly frightening or sweary but it is about adult relationships.

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12 thoughts on “Passengers 

  1. I’m glad to finally see a positive review of ‘Passengers’. I think it is a beautiful film. I’ve seen it three times and will see it again if I can before it finally leaves the theatres. It makes a change from the endless ‘alien attack’ or soulless space battle films that we have had.
    ‘Passengers’ is a love story in space and it is a good one.
    Chris Pratt as Jim Preston is excellent, his portrayal of a man faced with the dilemma of living his life out alone or waking Aurora knowing she will be condemned to die of old age on the ship, is masterful and realistic.
    Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, is simply sublime as ‘Aurora’. Most space heroines are either ‘screamers’ who need a man to save them at all times or ‘space commandos’ who can crush a man without a thought. ‘Aurora’ is neither. She is a very strong woman with a mind of her own but is also extremely feminine.
    Jennifer Lawrence is naturally a very beautiful girl and playing a space age ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is easy for her. But her strength lies in her acting which is evident from her very first scene where she is at first frightened and then angry at waking up early, then slowly falling for Jims charms as she begins to accept her fate. The proof of her ability to act comes when she discovers Jim’s role in her waking. Her rage at him culminating in the scene where she kicks seven bells out of him in the bedroom was so realistic as to be frightening.
    There is no question in my mind that Jennifer Lawrence is the greatest actress around.
    The only part of your review I disagree with is your claim that Jennifer’s character is ‘objectified’.
    I don’t agree that she is. Yes, she wears slinky dresses on three occasions; her ‘date’, her birthday and their final scene together. Most of the time she is in leggings and a t shirt or overalls. Yes, she wears a swimsuit but what else is she to wear while swimming?
    My final argument against the claim of objectification is the so called sex scene. Not once do you see anything of Aurora, apart from a glimpse of her back and a very brief glimpse of her thigh. The only bum you see is ‘Jim’s’ (down girls) and you see nothing of ‘Aurora’s’ body.
    Jennifer is a beautiful girl but I’m glad they didn’t resort to nudity for her.
    A brilliant film deserving of a much higher critic rating.

    1. Great comment, thank you. I take your points on Jennifer Lawrence and whether she is objectified. I largely agree with you and I didn’t have a problem with her representation in the film but I try to look at these things with a male feminist’s eyes. I don’t understand why this film has had such bad reviews, I really admired it.

  2. Thank you for your kind reply and your unbiased views. I absolutely adore Jennifer Lawrence and don’t understand the amount of bad press she has received lately. She is a brilliant actress and she and Chris Pratt really complement each other in this movie. Although much was made of the ‘sex scene’ in the press I’m glad it wasn’t explicit as I hate the thought of Jennifer’s sexuality being used to sell a movie when her acting is so much better than

      1. Yes, I have seen it five times. I will confess to owning all twenty of her movies and watching them many times. Winter’s Bone, Joy, Silver Linings and Serena are my favourites with Passengers and Catching Fire my favourites of her sci-fi style movies.
        Which is your favourite?

      2. Winter’s Bone is undoubtedly my favourite of Lawrence’s performances but she is also excellent in Silver Linings Playbook. I didn’t get on with American Hustle or Serena but the faults in those films are nothing to do with her.

      3. Yes, I agree with American Hustle. I didn’t much like it either but that is down to the subject matter and the cast, Jennifer’s performance was fine. I haven’t seen her give a poor performance although obviously some are stronger than others. it is down to the dialogue and director normally. I do like Serena but that is purely down to the cinematography and Jennifer’s performance.
        I actually own 19 movies not 20, I was counting ‘Passengers’ by mistake. The first two she is barely in so not really worth watching.
        It’s nice to chat to someone who doesn’t rubbish her for being overrated for a change.

      4. I agree totally. Too many actresses let themselves be talked into the easy option of ‘romcom’, thankfully some are too talented to get caught in this trap.

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