PASSENGERS
Author: JoAnne Hyde
Date: December 20, 2016

SYNOPSIS: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in an exciting action-thriller about two passengers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early. Jim and Aurora are forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, with the lives of thousands of passengers in jeopardy.

Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum, has a cast of thousands, but 4998 of them are asleep. There are really only two characters to be concerned about: Jim Preston played by Chris Pratt, and Aurora Lane played by Jennifer Lawrence. And I have to hand it to these two. They manage to sell a more or less outrageous story line. A couple of others flesh out the content, namely Michael Sheen as Arthur, a robot bartender, and Laurence Fishburne as Deck Officer Gus Mancuso, who serves as the catalyst for the outcome of the story.

Set in a distant future when space is no longer a scientific endeavor but a commercial venture, the film takes place entirely on the Starship Avalon (voiced by Emma Clarke). Yes, it speaks to the passengers. Avalon is bound for Homestead II, a colony on a planet 120 yearsí travel away. 5000 people have purchased a trip to a new life far, far away from Earth in both distance and time. Avalon, a wonder to behold, runs entirely by automation, provides all the amenities of a luxury cruise ship, but its passengers will only enjoy these for the last 4 months of their journey. Until then, they occupy hibernation pods.

Something happens. Youíll only realize the importance of the incident later in the story. One pod opens far too soon Ė only 30 years into the 120 year trip. Jim Preston (Pratt), a mechanical engineer, awakens thinking heís arrived at Homestead II. Instead he learns heís the only human awake with roughly 90 years to go. He has only a robot bartender to talk to after he learns from the voice of Avalon that thereís nothing he can do to fix the problem. He tries problem-solving first and eventually descends into depression and despair.

After a year or so, Jim decides to do something morally heinous. His loneliness and isolation are driving him mad, so he decides to wake someone else up, even though that person will be condemned to share his fate. He has become entranced with the bio video of a young writer from New York, Aurora Lane (Lawrence). He has no intention of telling her the truth, but to stick with the malfunction story.

After the initial shock wears off, Aurora begins to adjust and eventually falls in love with Jim. This film is really a love story, interspersed with breathtaking special effects of a deep space journey. Now, of course you know that the path of true love never runs smoothly, but Iíll leave it to you to discover how Aurora learns the truth and turns her wrath on Jim.

Things on the ship begin to go awry, a little at a time. Just before an endgame scenario, one of shipís crewmembers wakes up, Gus Mancuso (Fishbune). Unfortunately for him, his physical state has been compromised, unlike Jim and Aurora who are perfectly healthy. Heís around long enough, though, to acquaint them with the inner workings of Avalon, and to inform them that something has gone terribly wrong Ė thank you, Captain Obvious!

Iíll let you discover how this all plays out. Let me just say that itís probably a good idea not to think about it too much. If you do, youíll realize how absurd some of the things that happen are. Better to just sit back and enjoy the view. Again, the special effects are splendid, and Pratt and Lawrence manage to make you forget some of the absurdity. Plus, they look SO good doing it! - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B


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