Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Running Time: 116 minutes
Our Score: 1 out of 5 Stars
At casual glance, “Passengers” is “Cast Away” in space. 30 years into a 120 year journey, Jim (Pratt) is awoken from suspended animation due to a technical glitch with the spaceship, Avalon. But out of the thousands aboard the ship, including the crew, he is the only one to be disturbed from his slumber. Alone, he spends the next year trying to entertain himself, only finding companionship with an android bartender named Arthur (Sheen). But there’s only so much chit chat with a machine, along with digital dance gaming, basketball, and other recreational activities, one can do before developing cabin fever and crippling loneliness.
But on one particularly lonely day, after contemplating suicide, Jim comes across a pod containing Aurora (Lawrence). It’s love at first sight, but suddenly he develops a moral quandary in his brain. Being an engineer, he has the capability of waking up Aurora. Aurora’s natural beauty is alluring enough for him to do some electronic snooping. So, much like a 21st century stalker, he goes through her digital footprint and learns everything about her. This should creep out any sane audience. Right?
Now comes the worst part. Instead of asking a moral question about the lengths humanity would and should go to combat isolation, “Passengers” takes a disturbingly sexist route. Jim awakens Aurora and keeps his bastardly deed to himself, thinking he’ll wait for the right moment to tell her he’s ruined her life and condemned her to a lonely death. Of course, any good audience should know it’s only a matter of time until Aurora finds out. But once she does, “Passengers” attempts to paint Jim as the.
I’m really not ruining anything for you. I’d like to believe I’m saving you. Aurora’s revelation happens around the midpoint of the film. The only reason it happens so early is so that “Passengers” can spend the rest of its runtime, justifying Jim’s actions, directly and indirectly. But the movie makes the mistake of allowing Aurora to say the one thing we should all be thinking, “He’s committed murder.”
He has. “Passengers” never finesses the simple, but complex ethical questions behind Jim’s actions. Instead we’re just supposed to believe the ends justify the means. It doesn’t help when we watch as Aurora attacks Jim in his sleep, along with moments where Aurora is by herself. Instead of watching her sulk or seeing her realize the horrifying predicament she’s in, we watch her play video messages of her friends back on Earth, basic calling her narcissistic and selfish. It also doesn’t help that when Jim and Aurora are separate, Aurora is helpless and constantly at risk of peril, while Jim seems like a self-sufficient machine.
Regardless of its visual style and modest attempt at interesting concepts of intergalactic space travel, the most glaring flaw in “Passengers” is one that can’t be ignored. It should be condemned and abhorred. While Jim’s plight could certainly be relatable and sympathetic, “Passengers” almost seems to casually fall back on the concept of victim blaming. “Passengers” is a movie about a relationship built on selfish lies, stalking and entitlement. Its attempt at romance and a cutesy happy ending are stomach-turning.