Review: Passengers is not the ride of a lifetime

Chris Pratt as Jim Preston and Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Dunn in Passengers. Picture: Columbia Pic

Chris Pratt as Jim Preston and Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Dunn in Passengers. Picture: Columbia Pictures/Sony - Credit: Archant

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt give decent performances, but the writing isn't strong enough to keep attention.

Passengers (12A)

***

The promotional campaign for this has been cagey. Beyond the very basic plot outline – on a big spaceship transporting hibernating passengers to a new life on a distant planet, two people wake up way too early – all it wants to tell us about the film is 'Look, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are in it'. And by way of elaboration on that we get 'Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are in it and look how gorgeous they are'.

The opening credits announce this is a product of Original Films (a presumptuous name for a production company). We can debate how original Passengers is, but it definitely isn't a sequel, prequel, remake or reboot, which means that a viewer can go in not knowing exactly what to expect, and as that is the film's main pleasure, I shall try to be cagey here.

I will though reveal that this is more of a character piece than an action movie, which I think you could guess from the fact that they got the director of The Imitation Game, rather than some special effects guy, in to direct.

In Hollywood blockbuster terms the script is trying to be bold and unusual - it all hinges on a moment when a character fails to apply the What Would Tom Hanks Do ethos to a moral quandry - but the production design doesn't have an original idea in its head.

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Every set, every image has been seen before, and seen done better. It feels like the production has been designed so that nothing can be allowed to distract from its two stars.

It may be set on a giant spaceship, but the sci-fi trappings are so mundane it might just as well be a two-hander on a stage.

They both deliver decent performances, but the writing isn't strong enough to merit such concentration on the performers. For me, because it's Christmas and because I can't remember the last time I went into a $120 million movie with so little idea of what was coming next, the novelty outweighed the misgivings; if I was a member of the paying audience, I might not be so generous: because it's Christmas and I was expecting a big fun holiday movie.

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