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Have you heard how bad Passengers is? It’s currently at 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has a slightly better Metascore rating of 41. Slightly better, indeed. This reviewer does not agree.
Is Passengers the best movie I’ve seen this year? No, that honor is currently claimed by Hell or High Water (though that all may change when we see La La Land later). Is it the worst? No, that distinction is all Allied.
But is it a bad movie? No, it is not. Frankly, Passengers is a pretty good movie. In some ways more complex than the previews led one to believe, there is a level of complexity that Passengers approaches was a surprise. There are some interesting themes at work in Passengers and a fairly deep moral question around which the movie revolves. I was not expecting that.
I was expecting great performances from the major cast members and got them. The lead here is clearly Chris Pratt. He is very capable of handling the lead in Passengers. His Jim Preston is a distinct creation from his other roles and that’s good to see. Pratt could have let this character drift into similarities his Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy and that does not happen. Pratt is a very good actor, akin to an early Tom Hanks, and he is becoming worth watching in whatever he does.
Jennifer Lawrence is, of course, excellent as Aurora Lane, a writer who tries to deal with the fact that she may well be on the last voyage of her life. She is typically worth the price of admission to any film she’s in and she does not disappoint here. The rage and sadness, the helplessness she conveys during the movie are deeply felt and give the movie some emotional grounding.
Pratt and Lawrence have great chemistry, the kind that makes one want to see them together in another film. They play very well off each other in all of the varied circumstances the plot contrives to put them in and they carry the movie ably. Passengers would not have been as good in the hands of lesser actors.
Michael Sheen deserves some recognition as Arthur, the android bartender who, for much of the first act of the film, is Preston’s only companion. Sheen, like Lawrence and Pratt, takes what might be a one-note performance and makes it more than that through his work. I am glad to hear that rumors of his retirement from acting were just rumors.
Great performances and a very good hook help the movie from being a let down. The plot, in some ways, does not. As the movie progresses, the realization that something is very wrong with the starship Preston and Lane are on drives the story and the characters are forced to become reactionary. Their character development is shunted by the wayside for plot development and, while that is not always a bad thing, one can see a bit too readily where these plot points will take the characters and where their arcs will conclude.
I liked those conclusions and I liked the characters. The draw back of Passengers is that all is wrapped up a little too nicely.
However, that does not mean it’s a bad film. Well acted, well directed and visually arresting to look at, Passengers is not the disaster it has been made out to be.
PASSENGERS receives THREE AND HALF MALFUNCTIONING HIBERNATION PODS out of a possible FIVE.