'Passengers' Review: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence's Space Rom-Com Is Not What You Think
By John Boone
The advertising campaign for Passengers has essentially been: "We know you like Chris Pratt! We know you like Jennifer Lawrence! Well, here they are TOGETHER! You're welcome." And can you blame the studio? They have two of the most beloved actors of their time in one movie. That is exactly how I'd advertise it, too.
The first trailer sold the movie as a sort of intergalactic Titanic, then doubled back on itself and sold it as a space rom-com. But Passengers is not what you think it is, and it's not what you'd expect, either. It's the story of Jim Preston (Pratt), one of 5,000 passengers on a 120-year trek across the solar system on the self-piloting spaceship, Avalon, toward Homestead II, where they will find, we're told, a "new world" and a "fresh start."
An unlucky run-in with a meteor shower causes Jim's pod to pop open 90 years early, and, with no way to put himself back into suspended animation, he's faced with the prospect of a lifetime of solitude in deep space. That is, until Jim sees Aurora Lane (Lawrence) sleeping in her pod. As you've seen previews that feature Lawrence, it goes without saying that Jim eventually decides to wake her up. That's not a spoiler, that's...the plot of the movie.
I had read Jon Spaihts' screenplay ahead of seeing the movie, so I knew what to expect. It is not a romantic comedy, though it sometimes is. It's not just an action-adventure movie, but it is sometimes that, too. Notably, it's also a psychological horror film and not knowing that ahead of time seems to be what is sticking in the craw of many critics. The movie deals with complicated, arguably problematic questions that aren't raised in the previews. Ultimately, I think that makes it more interesting than what was advertised.
(While I have my marketing cap on, I was, however, surprised that the powers that be didn't use the shot of Pratt in the shower in any of the teasers. PSA: You see Chris Pratt's butt in this!)
Passengers is an acting showcase for Pratt. He gets to be the fratty space bro, as well as the Jurassic World action hunk. He also plays vulnerable and tragic quite well, sides of him that we haven't had many opportunities to see. Lawrence is equally wonderful -- and it's nice to see her playing a modern heroine. The real question was whether their chemistry together would work onscreen, and guess what! It does! They are sexy and playful and romantic and witty. Michael Sheen also co-stars as an android bartender and somehow manages to steal nearly every scene he's in from the top-lining stars.
Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) deftly handles the film's massively shifting tones -- the action sequences are thrilling and the sex scenes passionate, there is plenty of humor and some wonderful Wall-E-like robots -- and everything is gorgeously shot. From the first frame, I wished that I were seeing the sweeping, beautifully CGI-ed shots of outer space in IMAX. I have issues with Passengers' ending, which I won't ruin for you here -- for what's it's worth, though, the ending didn't ruin the enjoyment of the rest of the movie for me.