Films with minimal casts are probably a lot more ambitious than anyone considers. When actors have no one to build off of, they have no choice but to rely on themselves to convey the entire message of a story. Now while that might seem like their job, it’s a job that is much harder to do by yourself. I can think of offhand only about five movies that use this system really well, and the people they chose to use it with were way beyond their years.
Passengers, the new film starring Chirs Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games films) and helmed by Doctor Strange writer Jon Spaihts and The Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum, is a film with very little cast. Set on a space vessel bound for a colony across space, the story tells of Jim Preston (Pratt) a mechanic passenger and Aurora Lane (Lawrence) a writer covering the colony as part of her new book. Awoken 90 years before their time, they find that not only do they have to find a way back to sleep, but there might be something much more sinister at work.
All in all, there are a total of about 4 characters with any meaningful screen time. While that may seem like plenty, when all the other actors are silent and asleep, it leaves the narrative completely on their shoulders. And while Pratt carries his own quite well, Lawrence falls rather flat. It seems as though they chose her because she could do the stunts, because he range of emotion and acting are stunted to say the least.
While normally, he charm pulls her through, here her character is so woefully underwritten that it makes her hard to swallow.
And the underwritten label can be applied to many aspects of the film. I think Spaihts has had too much practice being vague in both Doctor Strange and Prometheus. His style just leaves too much to be desired. There’s enough of a story to maintain a surface or shallow reflection, but anyone who digs deeper will find errors that may feel rampant and completely overshadow the nice points.
The style is just so basic that while enjoyable, it really can’t rise above itself.
And there is a lot to like here. Visually, the film is beautiful and hits all the points graphic wise you would want. There are pretty actors, pretty sets, pretty dialogue, and pretty idea. The decor especially may leave you breathless and wanting for more of the movie. There just isn’t enough detail to hold it up.
That being said, the music in this film is very fitting. Thomas Newman, who you might remember from Wall-E, makes a whimsical score that dips into menacing at just the right notes.
Overall, the surface of Passengers is very enjoyable. It’s nicely built a great idea, some beautiful costars and a nice soundtrack. But go anywhere beyond the surface and you’ll find it just doesn’t hold up. Averaged out, it breaks just about even. It’s an average movie that is worth seeing if you like space travel. But in my opinion: rent it.
Passengers is in theaters now.
Fun to look at
Not the worst story
Only good on the surface