12A – 116mins – 2016 – 3D
IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM MURDER
Three decades into the starship Avalon’s hibernation-assisted 120-year journey transporting colonists from Earth to the planet Homestead II, mechanic Jim Preston’s (Chris Jurassic World Pratt) hibernation pod malfunctions, ejecting him early.
With only android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen; smirk-inducingly pokerfaced) for company, Jim grows evermore despondent as his abundant attempts at summoning help prove fruitless. After more than a year of isolation, Jim craves companionship and battles with the ethical dilemma of opening a pod and dooming a fellow passenger to his same fate…
Jon Spaihts’ screenplay was included on the 2007 black list of high-profile scripts yet to be produced. Such a lofty expectation, coupled with the A-list clout of “Star-Lord” and Jennifer Joy Lawrence in the lead roles, meant that prior to its pre-Christmas release, Passengers was highly anticipated, even if it was bowing just a week after another high profile sci-fi epic.
Sadly, some rather poisonous word-of-mouth concerning Passengers “stalker”-ish central romance killed off Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum‘s chances of competing with Rogue One at the box office, with many a review condemning the space drama for playing down its perceived “violence” towards women and identifying with a fantasy of Stockholm syndrome (!!).
These are immense and damaging claims, and while it is true that after discovering writer Aurora Lane’s (Lawrence) pod Jim does become infatuated with the idea of being with her, it is made abundantly clear that through his reading of her bio, watching her Avalon interviews and absorbing himself in her works he falls for her intellect and personality, not merely her beauty. Furthermore, his prolonged battle with his conscience and, later, Aurora’s discovery of his reproachful act (which she compares to waking her up to die) are fundamental to the plot, neither glazed over or ignored.
Blogger Abigail Nussbaum went to the hyperbolic extreme of labelling it “rapey garbage,” yet Aurora’s response establishes her as a capable, independent and strong-willing woman, not a pitiable victim. Ultimately, her choices are her own; A get-out is offered. Jim – already justifiably depressed and suicidal – suffers for his selfish decision, so it’s hard to comprehend why so many critics, viewers and bloggers have been outraged by this supposed support for Aurora’s “captor”.
Away from this polarising (yet unavoidable) core, Passengers is visually spectacular, with Tyldum capturing both the jaw-dropping splendour and loneliness of not only the sleek and futuristic Avalon, but also space itself. Despite flashes of action and humour (particularly in the final third), in its sparse cast and glacial pacing, the film evokes similar sombre genre pieces such as Alien, Ex_Machina and Moon, and in my opinion ranks favourably alongside them. This may be a controversial opinion, but I preferred it to Arrival.
CR@B’s Claw Score: