‘Passengers’ (2016) Review
Avalon is a spaceship on a 120 year voyage from Earth to a new planet called Homestead II. All of the 5000 passengers are in suspended animation and have chosen to travel to the new planet. But Jim (Chris Pratt) wakes after just 30 years and after a year of running a gamut of emotions from horror, to determination, acceptance and finally depression, he ponders his options. Having familiarised himself with the sleeping cargo, he falls for Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and craving human company, starts to think the unthinkable …
Garden of Eden
Once in a while, a movie leaves you teetering on the craggy precipice of an existential crisis. Jim is the only person ‘alive’ and although he wants for nothing material, his life is severely lacking emotionally. He takes in the vastness of the spaceship, with its luxury and beauty, not unlike Adam in the Garden of Eden; but like Adam, he is lonely. Pratt is likeable and wholesome as Jim and his geniality makes you will him to find a resolution. Martin Sheen plays Arthur the android barman and is cute, if deliberately detached from reality, in true robot style and his presence gives the movie a passing resemblance to The Shining, as Jim gravitates to the bar for company, albeit from a robot. Lawrence brings expected spiritedness to the proceedings as Aurora, but with enough warmth to give credibility to Jim’s untainted love for her.
Metaphors and Symbolism
Writer Jon Spaihts has written a perceptive piece about the needs of humans, their dreams and life’s journey. ‘Passengers’ is about a journey through space, but is a metaphor for a journey through life. Faced with the prospect of living out his life hurtling through space almost at the speed of light, Jim has the agony of a decision, followed by the agony of no return from his decision, having already made the life-changing choice to leave his life on Earth behind. His name is simple yet indisputably masculine; short for James, it is biblical and perfect for a film with subtle nuances of Christian symbolism. James was also the name of the first king of Britain, just as Jim becomes ‘king’ of the spaceship. More than one fairytale comes to mind, but particularly Sleeping Beauty, aka Aurora, which happens to be our female protagonist's name as well as the personification of dawn. Director Morten Tyldum catches the essence of Spaihts’ story with a sci-fi backdrop. The ship rivals Star Trek’s Vulcan ship, rotating like it floated off the set of Space Odyssey. Scenes in space, reminiscent of ‘Gravity’, are beautiful and tense. Inevitable space-related problems are presented with nail-biting graphics and special mention must go to the swimming-pool scene when gravity is temporarily lost.
Best Laid Schemes
Coming up with a title for this movie must have been a challenge; Robert Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse’ comes to mind, particularly the line about ‘the best laid schemes’. But as Arthur says:
You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget where you are.