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Film review: Passengers – Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt fall in love on a slumbering spaceship

Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum delivers pedestrian fare, in which acting takes a back seat to special effects. Space travel has never been so sleep-inducing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 11:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2016, 2:21pm

2/5 stars

Space travel has never seemed so soporific as it does in Passengers, Morten Tyldum’s slick but empty vessel of a movie.

Set entirely on the Starship Avalon, the first act is Robinson Crusoe in space. With 5,000 passengers deep in hibernation, all ready to start new lives on a lush-looking, faraway colony known only as Homestead II, the ship is just a quarter of the way through its 120-year journey when a malfunction sees one sleep pod spring open.

The luckless soul doomed to wander the shiny corridors alone is Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanical engineer from Denver. Unable to contact the still sleeping crew, his only source of company is Arthur (Michael Sheen), an android bartender.

As he reaches near-suicide, he finds his saviour – the angelic-looking Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), who is peacefully sleeping in her pod. After much soul-searching, he wakes her, claiming her pod has also malfunctioned.

A journalist who wanted to travel to Homestead II, then return to earth with the greatest story ever told, Aurora is initially thrown into despair at the prospect of living out her days floating in space. But gradually, she and Jim grow closer as the inevitable – and it should be said predictable – happens.

This meet cute in deep space – they flirt, they date, and eventually fall in love – is all very well, but the script by Jon Spaihts ( Prometheus ) never delivers the requisite emotional pull to turn this into a Romeo and Juliet beyond the stars.

Tyldum, who previously directed The Imitation Game, crafts some impressive set pieces – not least a gravity-free sequence that plays havoc with the ship’s swimming pool. The down-to-earth Pratt is ever watchable, although his chemistry with Lawrence is lacking and she’s not given an awful lot to do.

There’s a small but significant role for Laurence Fishburne (and an utterly pointless one for Andy Garcia). But in the end, this is less a film for actors than it is for visual effects supervisors.

Passengers opens on December 22

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