In Passengers, Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) has directed a hotly anticipated summer flick, that from reports of early screenings, seem to have polarised ethical opinion on the responsibilities of its protagonist. I couldn't find any evidence of this in the trailer that I saw, so I was dying to find out more.
On route to a distant colony planet, the transport ship Avalon suffers a malfunction that wakes one of its 5000 hyper-sleeping passengers. Jim (Chris Pratt) is left to wander the empty halls of the ship which still has 90 years of its journey to complete. Despite his best efforts, Jim cannot find a way to re-enter hyper-sleep and is essentially doomed to live out the remainder of his days on board.
A year later, as he understandably starts to feel lonely, Jim begins to contemplate the dubious act of waking up another passenger. Most of his deliberation plays out in conversation between himself and the ship's android bar tender, Arthur (a very affable character superbly played by Michael Sheen).
Jim sums up his situation best when he asks Arthur: What would you do if you were marooned on a desert island but had the power to wish someone with you, knowing that you will seal their fate ... would you do it?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what he decides - after all, if you've seen the trailer you'll know that Jennifer Lawrence turns up at some point.
Soon after, the film unfortunately takes a turn for the worse. Rather than fully exploring the implications of a deliberately presented ethical dilemma, it opts to focus instead on another less cerebral problem - saving the ship from falling apart. Yes, the original malfunction has conveniently spread, leaving the ship in jeopardy. In reality, it provides an easy out for writer Jon Spaihts, who appeared not to know what to do with his excellent set-up. Spaihts also suffered a similar problem with his previous work, Prometheus, where an interesting premise is tantalisingly dangled in front of its audience but is not fully explored. A couple of set action pieces later and I was left scratching my head wondering why it was that I felt so deflated.
Technically, the film is beautiful to look at and the production value is top-notch. As a stock standard sci-fi, it's actually not bad and worth your money, if that's what you're after. If you're after anything more you'll be lamenting the lost opportunity.
Rating: 3 stars.
Passengers opens New Year's Day.