Review: Passengers

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

2016 adventure chris pratt jennfer lawrence laurence fishburne michael sheen morten tyldum passengers science fiction romance

PLOT: On a spacecraft traveling to a brand new colony, two passengers wake up 90 years too early. During their time, they must try and discover why there was a malfunction with the sleep chambers, and whether they can join the thousands of fellow travelers who are still in hibernation. 

REVIEW: The trailer for PASSENGERS is slightly misleading. Perhaps that's because it only vaguely touches on what this sci-fi feature is really about. Firstly, you have two very pretty people stranded together with not another soul in sight. Secondly, while it may look like some massive space opera by its appearance, it's a much more personal tale. Thus, before sitting down with this flick, my expectations were all over the place. Intrigued? Sure, but I wasn’t terribly excited before I took it all in. So what is the mystery behind this drama beyond the stars? Something surprisingly simple and mostly effective.

2016 adventure chris pratt jennifer lawrence jon spaihts laurence fishburne michael sheen morten tyldum passengers science fiction

In the future, we have have moved civilizations to other parts of our far reaching universe. For mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), it's the chance to start life anew. Unfortunately for him, when he wakes up on the Starship Avalon, he comes to the realization that he still has 90 years of travel left. The ship, carrying 5,000 hibernating inhabitants, is headed to the newly structured ‘Homestead Colony’ – a newly populated planet. Due to a hibernation pod malfunction, Jim must figure out how he can get back to sleep with the others aboard the ship. Things change, however, when circumstances bring another passenger out of their celestial slumber. Soon, Jim is courting the only other human awoke onboard, a beautiful writer by the name of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

While this is certainly a visual spectacle thanks to director Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME, HEADHUNTERS) it relies heavily on the charismatic stars. Ultimately, this is a romantic fable about a lonely man who makes a very questionable choice in hopes to end his loneliness. The film has more in common with the cerebral SOLARIS as opposed to the action and adventure the trailer hints at. That said, the final act is quite thrilling and it makes a thoughtful – if not terribly deep – statement on love and sacrifice.

2016 adventure chris pratt jennifer lawrence jon spaihts laurence fishburne michael sheen morten tyldum passengers science fiction

Chris Pratt plays comedy adventure as well as any modern star. Thankfully, he has a little more to work with here. As he faces the solitude of being the only person aboard the massive spaceship, he ably conveys the fear and vulnerability of a flawed man. Some may have a bit of an issue of what he does and how Aurora finds herself in his story, but that made the character a little more compelling in my book. The fact that he acts as selfishly as he does, and still manages to earn sympathy is impressive. It’s a nice change of pace for the actor.

As for Jennifer Lawrence, the actress once again proves to be very effective. Arguably, she has the most dramatic arc of the two even though her situation isn’t quite as complicated as Preston’s. What the actress does well here is bring a fierce emotional quality to Aurora. Thankfully, the feature managed to offer a few charming sequences where both Preston and Lane have quirky conversations with the fantastic Michael Sheen. Considering the incredible actor is playing an android, his performance feels very real and integral to the story at hand.

2016 adventure chris pratt jennifer lawrence jon spaihts laurence fishburne michael sheen morten tyldum passengers science fiction

Certainly Tyldum aims to create a rich and beautiful visual palate. And he does just that in a satisfying way. While not all the effects are flawless, the production design is certainly inspired. The way the filmmaker creates a functional living environment on the Starship Avalon is very impressive. And the haunting score by Thomas Newman adds to the atmosphere nicely. There is serious beauty in this film with both what we see and what we hear.

The script by Jon Spaihts (DOCTOR STRANGE, PROMETHEUS) is an unusual one. As far as the sort of problems you find in a science fiction film, the immediate issue these characters face is surprisingly simple. If you are looking for lots of explosions and action set pieces you may be disappointed. As well, the film is not nearly as smart as it attempts to be, but it does manage to pose an interesting moral dilemma. Still, the script could have dug a little deeper into what is right and wrong. And occasionally, you do wonder what this would have been like with two less popular actors in the leads.

PASSENGERS is an unusual work of science fiction. It is much closer to a romantic drama as opposed to an epic space adventure. Both Lawrence and Pratt are very good as two strangers getting to know each other in a frightening and strange situation. The film also gives the fantastic Laurence Fishburne a chance to command the screen. This out of this world romance falls somewhere between the cerebral pleasures of ARRIVAL and the popcorn thrills of ROGUE ONE. Thankfully, the effects and the charismatic stars make this a journey that might be worth taking – even if it could have been so much more with perhaps less star power and a slightly smarter script.





Viewer Ratings (0 reviews)

Add your rating


About the Author

3134 Articles Published

JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.