Voyagers Review

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: Thirty young men and women are sent on a multi-generational mission to find humanity a new home. Their mission descends into chaos when the young people discover they’ve been ingesting a protein that represses their emotions.

REVIEW: Voyagers offers an intriguing if familiar premise. What if, in the future, we were all medicated to keep our most troublesome emotions at bay? Ya know, things like love, lust, and hate? It’s been done – pretty well – before in movies like Equals and Equilibrium. The twist here is that the ones doing the medicating aren’t especially sinister. They’re doing it out of presumed necessity, as the human race is dying off. Their only hope is to send a Noah’s Ark of humans out to the furthest reaches of the galaxy to start over. Their mission will last generations. The idea is that by regulating their emotions they’ll stay laser-focused on the mission at hand (procreation will be done randomly, with romance discouraged). Guess how well it goes.

Voyagers comes from Limitless director Neil Burger and it feels thematically similar in that its speculative sci-fi that examines the way medication and drugs could alter society – and the backlash it could cause. Here, the leads are Tye Sheridan’s Christopher, the even-tempered quasi leader of the crew, with Fionn Whitehead his more unpredictable best pal Zac. They both love Lily Rose-Depp’s Sela, who doubles as the crew doctor. She’s being mentored by the lone grown-up on the ship – Colin Farrell’s Richard. He's been assigned to watch over the kids as they come of age. Unlike any of them, he’s had a life, with it hinted that he had a family that passed away, thus nothing was tying him to earth any longer.

The first half of Voyagers is better than the second. The premise is a good one, and Burger gives the film a polished look, with cool lensing by Enrique Chediak and an effective minimalist score by Trevor Gureckis. The movie falls apart to some degree in the second half, where it becomes a virtual remake of Lord of the Flies set aboard a spaceship. One of the issues is that the cast, all of whom are in their mid-twenties, are too old for their roles. Had the actors all been teens, it might have worked better. It feels like they’re written as teens, with much made out of their youth, but everyone here seems to be in their early to mid-twenties. They’re distinctly not children.

voyagers review

The performances are a mixed bag. The two leads, Tye Sheridan and Lily Rose-Depp are really good. Sheridan has the right blend of naivety and empathy to play the one they all look to for leadership, while Depp is the most mature person on board thanks to her friendship with Farrell. The ones that don’t come off as well are the villains, particularly Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead as the crew member who becomes a full-on sociopath within moments of screentime. We’re supposed to believe these young adults, all of whom are supposed to be genetically engineered super-geniuses, would automatically follow him when he suggests eating their way through the ship’s limited resources. I didn’t buy it – with it hard to swallow the fact that Depp and Sheridan would essentially have to stand alone while the rest of the ship depends into chaos. Farrell is good in a minor role. It's crazy to think that he's gotten to the point where he's now the elder statesman in films like this.

As such, it’s a flawed but still generally entertaining tale. Burger, who also wrote it, has made a familiar film that’s not quite as provocative as it seems to think it is, but his work is nothing if not proficient. It’s a frustratingly mixed bag, but still a decent Sunday afternoon watch on a streaming service, which is really where this belongs. Back in the day, there was a category of films that were “wait for video”. That doesn’t exist anymore so I guess “wait for Netflix?”




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.