Passengers: Compelling sci-fi drama

Film: Passengers

Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia 

Director: Morten Tyldum

The books of Genesis and Ecclesiastes are, clearly, source material for this riveting sci-fi survival drama which addresses the ethical dilemmas that provoke selfishness and wrongdoing. Written for the screen by Jon Spaihts and directed by Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”), the film also sounds a cautionary note about imperfect technology while it explores the terror of loneliness and exalts forgiveness, bravery, self-sacrifice ,companionship and love.

The wary transgressor is handsome mechanic Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) who is travelling aam admi class to a distant space colony on the star ship Avalon (which is also the name of the Paradise to which King Arthur went after his death). The journey will take 120 years or so in which time the passengers hibernate in pods. A few months prior to landing, Jim and the rest of the 5,000 odd passengers and crew would wake up from suspended animation.

But an unexpected collision with an asteroid and a malfunction somewhere in the innards of the funky spaceship awaken Jim 90 years before schedule! After a year and more of depression, desperation, aborted suicidal attempts with only an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company, Jim stumbles on Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) “the perfect woman” (who lights up his life) Unlike Genesis, there is no divine hand in Aurora’s awakening; the very human protagonist takes the decision himself after months of agonising over what to do.

First class passenger Aurora, Gentleman Jim learns as he bones up on the sleeping beauty from the passenger manifest, is a journalist who embarked on the long journey to escape the tedium of a teeming, over-priced earth, and eventually return and write about her experiences. Jim’s reason is garden-variety (a new home) though not his ardour for Aurora, whose plans for the future he aborts. Unbeknownst to her of course, until Arthur spills the beans.

Naturally, she is furious and isolates herself from Jim who was all set to pop the all-important question. Is the relationship damaged beyond repair? Real life science reportage suggests humans will find solace in robots but for the reel protagonist Jim, the android is an inadequate companion. Then, a crew member Gus Mancuso (Lawrence Fishburne) wakes from hibernation and the malfunction threatens to destroy the entire spacecraft.

So, “Passengers” has intense thrills after the romantic interludes and exquisitely rendered by CGI spaces capes. Still, the plot could have taken a nasty turn if the secondary characters had displayed malevolence. And what if Jim and Aurora (beautifully essayed by Pratt/Lawrence) had babies? Ah, matters then would have become even more complicated. Gratifyingly, Tyldum and Spaihts aim for felicitous closure with a mini Garden of Eden inside Avalon.

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