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Rafini's Movie Review: Passengers

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Pop culture enthusiast and poet; Writer of non-fiction, personal essays and memoir.

The Stars of Passengers

Directed by Morten Tyldum. Original screenplay by Jon Spaihts.

Directed by Morten Tyldum. Original screenplay by Jon Spaihts.

Questioning Passengers

Passengers, the 2016 film from Norwegian director Morten Tyldum and written by screenwriter Jon Spaihts, Doctor Strange (2016) and Prometheus (2012), is about the philosophical questions of right and wrong as they relate to fate and destiny. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the film centers on the two main characters as they wake up on a long-term space flight only to realize there are 90 years left in their journey. Tyldum, director of The Imitation Game (2014) and Headhunters (2011), creates an impressive mise-en-scene to carry, in what I can only imagine as a sparse script from Spaihts, the mixed genre weight of this adventure, romance, comedy and drama that doesn’t quite hit its mark. I say doesn’t quite hit its mark because, for me, the ending of the film left just as many questions as the beginning.

Finally! Some Action!

Part of a long awaited action sequence

Part of a long awaited action sequence

From Questions to Impressive Sights

The film opens to scene after scene of the vast emptiness both inside and outside the spaceship, with critical information for the audience typed upon the screen as the scenery changes from the sterile interior to the seemingly never-ending galactic views of the exterior, space debris and back again. Personally, I found it a little perplexing that the information given did not include any backstory as to why this spaceship and its passengers were traveling to another colony. I wondered whether they were all going to the same place, or whether this journey was considered an everyday bus-ride type occurrence. I found the imagery stunning and breathtaking. At the same time as I was impressed with the cinematography, however, I was also extremely uninterested in the neutrality of nothingness.

A Must-See Film?

The Question of - Why?

It seemed to take forever before there was any action in the film, and then the only action we do see for another seemingly long period of time involves a singular human being going through several stages of shock, surprise, panic, and grief before finally accepting fate. The funny thing about acceptance, in this film, is that it includes giving the self a certain level of permission to explore. This exploration, then, leads to an awareness that otherwise would not have been found, and introduces the next sequence of events in which our hero renders an irrevocable decision, and this decision, then, is eventually revealed to have been a wise choice. Before this revelation, however, another character wakes up too soon and informs our hero that their situation of being awake is not acceptable. As the drama of the situation played out on the screen, I couldn’t help but wonder why this particular set of people woke up during this journey. What was the point in this trip, their waking up, and the knowledge they acquired?

Making a Decision

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From Pure Entertainment to Philosophical Questions

The main characters shared, among themselves, why they were on this journey, their fears and displeasures in being awake, and an intimacy expected of two travelers stranded together with no hope of rescue. Throughout their obligatory developing relationship, a little lie threatens their happiness but, at just the right moment, exposes, without remorse, the highly unlikely coincidence of their co-existent condition of being the only human beings awake on the spaceship for decades to come. Now, if it weren’t for their spaceship environment, and the apparent randomness in being selected to wake up, at this point I would have seriously questioned Spaihts abilities in writing a script. However, I was far too involved in the plot at this point to even consider the possibility that their situation wasn’t as terribly dire as first supposed, or that they were, in fact, lucky to be companions at that particular moment. In other words, the main story line briefly took a backseat to the mesmerizing special effects, which transported the film from an entertaining philosophical question of right and wrong into the much more serious realm of fate and destiny.

A Rushed Ending?

All in all, I felt Passengers was a good film because the significance of their story resides in the future reality of their choices and decisions rather than in the fact they woke up too early. I did, however, feel the ending was a little rushed and cobbled together, as if it were an alternate ending or as an experimental suggestion of a sequel. Whichever the case, I gave Passengers eight out of ten stars, and recommend this almost two-hour movie as a must-see film. Whether you go alone, with a significant other or as part of a group, you will leave the theater with plenty to talk about. Enjoy.

What do you think?

How Would You Rate Passengers?

© 2017 Rafini

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