Passengers (redux)

I really didn’t expect to be making a second post about this film. I enjoyed it the first time, though with reservations that had me rate it a bit lower originally.  With this second viewing I’m revising my opinion upward. I’m probably more surprised than you are by that.

What follows does have some spoilers, so be warned.

I still believe the balance of the film is a little off and that there is a significant, but ignorable, flaw in the script (and a bit of science I’m humming through). The main flaw is simply that any sleeper ship would have awakened a crew member at some point given the situation. Period. Even understanding it could be a death sentence for them, we’d expect some attempt to bring a qualified human with clearance into the mix. No matter your assumptions about reliability (which is hammered home) you have fallbacks on a 120 year journey with quadrillions of dollars and 5500 lives at stake. I do think this could have been covered and kept the story exactly the same, but neither Spaiht nor Tyldum did. In the current incarnation, Fishburne (John Wick: Chapter 2) is awakened, but “by accident” not a computer choice. That set my teeth on edge, but I rewrote it all mentally to get past it.

The rest of the script is damned clever and well constructed. Any failure around the tale really falls to director Tyldum, in the end. And he does stumble a bit, which is why it took two viewings and some thought to get where I am.

Knowing the story, and type of story it was this time through, the concerns I had the first viewing mostly evaporated. The subtlety of the Chris Pratt’s and Jennifer Lawrence’s performances came through, particularly Pratt’s. I could see his moments of choice, though I still believe we needed a bit more time and desperation, or a better hammering of his desperate loneliness so his ultimate decisions are better understood. There are opportunities for it that Tyldum misses; I really had to think about it to realize what they were. The fact that he keeps going to the basketball court and the dance off to have “company” is very telling, but the impact of those moments doesn’t hit.  And these ideas are offset by his solo efforts running and boxing, not to mention his humor. The only clear moment we have is his attempt to cuddle with the spacesuit. Alone it is a good moment, but it isn’t enough for what has to follow at that point. These are all director Tyldon’s miss and a result of angles and editing.

However, and despite the directing/editing choices of that first half hour, Spaiht’s script, overall, is incredibly clever and well thought through. Jennifer Lawrence’s path through this tale is probably the most treacherous. But all of the concerns of why she chooses what she does and how she resolves those conflicts are all covered. She would have died unless he woke her up. She chooses to stay around despite having the option not to. The two may or may not have had children (we don’t know) but the focus at the end is about the two of them and their happy life together.

It does have to be noted that Michael Sheen’s performance is just as much fun the second time as it was the first. It is another understated delivery that stay consistent but effective. And the production design is amazing. I still think it should have taken the Oscar for the quality and scope of its efforts, but was glad it got the nod as I’d hoped.

If you still haven’t seen this film, do. Ignore the couple of science-y things they get wrong and just go with it. The movie really isn’t what you think it is and it holds up to rewatching, which says a lot to me. I’m even looking forward to watching it again at some point… which says even more.


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