This review contains potential spoilers… Consider yourself warned!
If you were stranded on a desert island all alone for the rest of your life, but you had the option of wishing someone else there with you, would you do it? You’d be making an unbearable situation much more endurable for yourself, but you’d be taking someone else’s life away. So what do you choose?
This is more or less the questions Chris Pratt’s Jim has to make in “Passengers”, except instead of being trapped on an island, Jim is stranded on a spaceship by himself for the rest of his life.
Directed by Morten Tyldum, “Passengers” is set on the Starship Avalon. The spaceship is 30 years into its 120 year voyage to a distant colony, transporting 5000 passengers to their new home planet. Everyone on board – passengers and crew alike – are asleep in hibernation pods which are scheduled to open just before the ship arrives on the new planet. However two pods open prematurely and the two people who awoke, Jim Preston (Pratt) and Aurora Dunn (Jennifer Lawrence), are stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from their destination.
The “twist”? Jim’s hibernation pod opened due to a technical malfunction. Aurora was deliberately woken up by Jim.
After a year on the ship with no one for company but a robot named Arthur (Michael Sheen), a lonely Jim notices Aurora asleep in her pod and, of course, is struck by her beauty. He looks into her background and learns she’s a writer from New York. He reads her work, realises he’s in love with her and, after an extensive(ish) moral dilemma, decides to wake her.
For obvious reasons, I’ll refrain from spelling out the rest of the plot for you. However the premise is interesting because it can be seen as really voyeuristic and creepy. Jim projects his “love” onto the sleeping Aurora (isn’t Sleeping Beauty’s name Aurora?), apparently drawn to her writing even though all he can really see is her unconscious body, and then effectively takes her life without her permission, all to satisfy his own needs. Not only is it a tricky moral dilemma in terms of taking someone’s life, but it almost becomes a question of borderline misogyny.
However, disappointingly, the film shifts gear and proceeds to focus on the deterioration of the ship which is about the break down and kill everyone on board. The movie then becomes a typical Hollywood, outer space action flick, losing the spark of the first act. Once we learn that everyone on board would have died had Jim and Aurora not been awake to save the day, the filmmakers give Aurora (and the audience) a reason to forgive Jim’s potentially unforgivable decision and everyone is free to live happily ever after.
While the set up is intriguing, “Passengers” loses its way when it fails to go into the ramifications of Jim’s decision to wake Aurora. The film could have explored some really significant moral and ethical questions, however it decides to take the easy route and as such becomes a far less interesting movie.