Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Passengers' Is Smart, Sexy and Deep

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Passengers' Is Smart, Sexy and Deep

Article excerpt


"Passengers" is a lot cleverer and more contemplative than I took it for.

The trailers make it look like a dopey romance-in-space story starring the ridiculously cute couple of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. They're two passengers on a massive colonization ship from Earth who get woken up from hyper-sleep 90 years too early, and have to face the prospect of their own mortality while falling head-over- heels in love -- quite literally, in zero gravity suits.

Talk about the ultimate Meet Cute: "They found love along the way to a galaxy far, far away."

Instead, director Morten Tyldum ("The Imitation Game") and screenwriter Jon Spaights ("Doctor Strange") give us something more ambitious and much darker. The syrupy love story is still there, but it's leavened with moral quandaries and existential threats. The last act is pretty typical we-must-save-the-world action sequences, but what comes before sets it up convincingly. Their ship is headed to a lush green planet across the cosmos. The Homestead II looks a lot like the ship in "Wall- E" -- a luxury ocean liner in space, with robots to cater to their every need. Except the 5,000 passengers and 258 crew are only supposed to wake up when they're four months out from their destination.

Something goes wrong with the hyper-sleep pods, and as it happens, the two most attractive people onboard wake up. Aurora Lane is a journalist who found her life on Earth constraining and hungered for adventure. Her idea was to travel to the colony, spend a year living there and write a book about it, then travel back again in hyper-sleep, so she'd end up 250 years into the future. Jim Preston is a much more down-to-earth guy. A mechanic living on a planet where it's cheaper to buy new things than fix old ones -- sound familiar? -- he yearns for a place where his skillset is valuable. He dreams of building his own house on a distant planetside.

Their only other real companion is Arthur, a legless bartender android played by Michael Sheen. All the other robots are mechanized automatons, but Arthur's been programmed to listen and react to psychological issues. He's even smart enough to recognize his limitations. …

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