Passengers: Movie Review

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LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 17: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 17, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage) JB Lacroix WireImage

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself completely alone, devoid of human companionship of any kind? Add to it the knowledge that this predicament wouldn’t change for the remainder of your natural life. In effect, you’re trapped on a desert island, and although you have food, beverages, technology and entertainment options, the only face you’d ever see again would be your own in the mirror. 

Now, twist the story a bit and add this fact to the scenario. You’re on the space-age equivalent of a luxury transport, along with 5000 other people and nearly 300 crew members. You’re in a state of hibernation, something akin to cryogenics, set to wake up four months before arrival. This is the case for everyone aboard the ship. The journey is set to take 120 years, but after 30, your pod malfunctions and you wake up. You walk around and you see everyone else still asleep. You’re confused, and increasingly you realize your life will end on the ship. There’s no way to put yourself back into hibernation.

You’re awake.

Now, what would you do?

The first answer is easy. You’d do anything and everything. No one is there to stop you, so if you want to walk around stark naked for months, it would be between you and your deity of choice. If you wanted to break things, if you wanted to commit crimes, you could do it. But, at some point, the novelty and the fun would wear off, because you’d never have anyone to share your life with. In fact, you’d never even see the fruits of your labor. 

Whatever you did, by the time everyone else woke up to experience it, would only mean something to them. You wouldn’t know the feelings, the ramifications, or the happiness or pain you caused.

Passengers tells just that story, as engineering mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) wakes up after a pod error, and is left alone with no one but an android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen). After running the gamut of emotions and exhausting all efforts to either return to the deep sleep or send a message back to the company responsible for the voyage, he faces the question of whether to ruin the life of someone else by waking them up, ending his solitude. Enter Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer and the daughter of a Pulitzer Prize winner. 

The decision he makes, after much debate and many attempts to battle against temptation, is obvious if you’ve seen 20 seconds of the trailer. Aurora joins Jim, and a friendship and romance blossoms. Truthfully, if you’re going into Passengers for anything other than a love story, you’re likely to be disappointed. This is not a sci-fi action film, though there are a few sequences later in the movie that fit that description.

Sadly, my introduction might have excited you for the story, but now its time to bring the colony ship back down to earth. Morten Tyldum’s (The Imitation Game) movie has potential, but falls into a collection of tropes and cliches. 

I was a much bigger fan of the idea of Passengers than I was the film itself, despite good performances from the four main stars, a list that includes Pratt, Lawrence, Sheen, and solid work from Lawrence Fishburne as a veteran deck chief caught in an impossible spot. The problem with the movie is it’s a basic romance first and second, and though some of the humor and action works, the overall execution is flimsy. 

You’ve seen this love story before, many times. The setting and the hopeless to hopeful concept behind it does make it more interesting than a run of the mill rom-com, but you can already guess what happens without anyone telling you how it progresses. As I watched, I kept waiting for a game changing moment or a reveal, but it’s all straightforward. This isn’t The Sixth Sense. It’s a somewhat better version of a movie you’ve probably tried to avoid all year long.

That said, couples will probably like the movie. I didn’t hate Passengers, but the constant predictability robbed most of the charm that might otherwise have accompanied the star power. Even the problems with the ship that eventually become life-threatening are easy calls to make while standing in line to purchase a ticket. There’s nothing surprising here, and because of it, there’s not really a reason to recommend it, especially over the likes of Hacksaw Ridge, La-La Land, Fences, Arrival, or other better choices with award buzz. I like all four of the main stars quite a bit, which does help, and the film isn’t quite two hours, so it does move fast enough.

Preston’s decision seems unthinkable, but the struggle and the difficulty with which he makes it, as well as the manner in which he comports himself afterward, all combine to keep him sympathetic. You do root for Jim and Aurora, and you’ll find yourself wanting to see more from them, but the writing just isn’t that strong. I’d like to see Chris and Jennifer do another movie together, because the chemistry is definitely there, along with the talent. This just isn’t the vehicle to showcase them properly.

Once Passengers is over and the horrible pop rock hits along with the credits, you’ll walk out and completely forget about it. The people are better than the plot, and if you like the actors, you could do worse this weekend. Rogue One has nothing to worry about, and if you’re not going with a date, Passengers is one you can skip. It might be a good Netflix watch in a few years, but I can’t tell you to rush to the theater tomorrow, unless you want a passable romance with likable characters.

There’s so much that could have been done here, but precious little of it is actually even attempted. 

Not terrible, but nothing you haven’t seen before. C-

I’m @JMartOutkick. Television Top Tens and year end awards coming next week. Happy holidays to you and yours. Hit me up on Twitter or email me at

Written by Jason Martin


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