Passengers Review
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At this time of the year, award season buzz can favor some films so heavily that other releases get completely lost in the shuffle. But while Morten Tyldum’s polarizing sci-fi adventure, Passengers, may not be in the running for the year’s big awards, its practical-joking costars, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, are ensuring that no one forgets about it.

Passengers boards a spaceship called the Avalon as it makes its 120-year journey to a distant colony called Homestead II. All 5,000 passengers are kept in hibernation pods for the journey, to be awakened four months before they reach their destination. But a collision causes one pod to open 90 years too soon. Jim Preston (Pratt) finds himself alone on the ship—and though he knows the consequences, he eventually can’t help but wake beautiful writer Aurora Lane (Lawrence). And as they adjust to their solitary lives in space, they face malfunctions that could prove disastrous.

Passengers is a simple film in a magnificent setting: a story about first one then just two characters (plus a robotic bartender, played by Michael Sheen) facing loneliness, despair, and disaster as they roam through a massive ship that’s racing through space. This could be a remarkably heavy film, since Jim and Aurora are all too aware that they won’t make it to their intended destination. And, at times, the weight of it all does sink in. But there’s more to it than doom and gloom. It’s also a story about making the most of the situation—about working together and finding happiness in difficult times.

And, of course, there’s just something about the film’s costars that will make you perfectly happy to get lost in space with them for a couple of hours. Pratt’s mix of humor, panic, and sarcasm about his character’s predicament, along with his moments of mischief and his friendly banter with his robotic friend, make his solo time pass quickly—though perhaps even a little too quickly to give audiences a real feel for the loneliness and desperation of his first year on the ship. And when Lawrence joins the story, she brings strength and determination (all with a touch of cynicism) to the adventure.

The story here is constantly changing. In the beginning, it’s the sci-fi drama of a man along in space. Then it’s a kind of sci-fi rom-com. And, finally, it’s a sci-fi thriller. Yet while the film goes through changes in tone along the way, each part of the story naturally flows into the next. This isn’t always an easy film—and parts of the story are certainly flawed. But the likeable stars and eye-catching sci-fi effects still make for an entertaining race through space.

It may not have the award season buzz of Arrival—and it may not have the decades of history of Rogue One—but Passengers is an imperfectly entertaining sci-fi adventure. As long as you aren’t expecting anything award-worthy, it’s not a bad way to pass a chilly winter evening.

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