Passengers - Movie Review

Posted on February 14, 2017

Last updated on February 14, 2017

This is a movie review and my thoughts for Passengers, a 2016 drama set aboard a spaceship traveling at half the speed of light to an Earth-like planet 120 light years away from Earth.

I didn’t have too high of an expectation but I found the movie actually very good. No over-the-top dumb effects and didn’t need to suspend disbelief for any ridiculous plot holes - just an exploration of how being stranded on a spaceship with no way to fall back into hibernation can affect two people.

The plot is that Jim (Chris Pratt) is on a spaceship going to an Earth-like planet. The flight is to take 120 years and so Jim together with the rest of the crew and the passengers are put under hibernation and are meant to awake only four months before the scheduled arrival date. Due to a malfunction, Jim awakes thirty years into the journey and quickly panics after he figures out that no one else is yet awake and that he still has ninety years left until his destination. Soon the realization that he will die on this spaceship and never reach the destination hits him.

Now, put yourself in this situation? What would you do? How would you react? You are awake, there are more than five thousand people all asleep in hibernation, and you know how the rest of your life will look like. You’ll age normally outside of hibernation and you’ll never have the chance to see the planet that you left your life on Earth for. Jim is clearly very lonely but one day he spots Aurora, a young journalist from NYC, sleeping in her pod. He starts looking through the ship’s logs to find out who she is, watches interviews with her, reads her books and her articles. He bonds with her. With barely anything else to do he bonds with her over her videos and articles.

Now comes the struggle. He knows how to get someone out of hibernation. Doing so means that he will effectively kill the other person. There is no way for them to go back into hibernation and they will most certainly die before within the next ninety years, much before reaching the final destination of the Earth-like planet Homestead II. How are you supposed to make this decision? Is it murder? It would be clearly beneficial for Jim to have a friend. We are not meant to be solitary creatures, we are a herd animal. It’s difficult to imagine what extended periods of loneliness can do to your psyche. And we are talking about real loneliness here, no one to talk to within the vicinity of more than twenty light years! Think about that, absolutely no one, just you in the vastness of space.

It must have been an incredibly hard decision, I wonder what I would have done. Jim in the end decides to wake Aurora up, he simply can’t handle the emotional distress by having had no one to interact with for such a long time. There’s a scene where Jim is standing in the excursion bay to outer space but this time he’s not wearing a space suit. He has his hand on the lever that opens the bay door and which would instantly kill him, a tear coming down from his eye. I can only try to imagine the emotional pain he was going through to consider suicide, but even more so I applaud him for finding the courage not do it.

Is it ethical what he has done to Aurora? With his action he has decided the rest of her life for her with barely any input from her. She would never be able to experience the planet she signed up to go to. She would have to spend the rest of her life with this one man whether she likes it or not. With just two people left in existence, will they necessarily fall in love together?

In case you don’t want a spoiler, stop reading and watch the movie, otherwise please carry on.

Now at first Aurora just thinks that she has awaken due to a malfunction. The first couple weeks go be merrily with Jim and Aurora having fun, playing basketball, dancing, having all their meals together, and eventually also sleeping together. What choice is there? The situation forces it upon them. Eventually the android bartender with his lack of situational knowledge tells Aurora that Jim woke her up on purpose, mentioning that it wasn’t easy for him and that Jim said it was the hardest choice he’s ever had to take. We see some really good acting from Jennifer Lawrence here, her character is absolutely appalled, she just loses her breath and really doesn’t know how to react to the situation. She basically just learned that someone, Jim, on purpose decided her life for her. In her words, it was basically murder, he took away her opportunity to live the life she wanted to live and forced her to spend the rest of her days on the ship with him.

From the beginning of the movie to around the last fifteen minutes, the mood changes a lot and turns more action-based with the two characters and another technical captain that wakes up, trying to save the ship and not have one of the reactors blow up. There is bunch of action scenes here and I enjoyed this part of the movie much less than the first one but it was still good. In one of the final scenes Jim is outside the ship, a bay door gets blown off and he is blown of into space, the metal attachment holding him onto the ship snapping. Aurora goes out to fetch him, finds him almost dead, and resuscitates him using some onboard medical machine and jumps onto him with kisses.

The two later figure out that in fact it is possible to go back to hibernation using the on-board medical pod, but there is only one of them on the whole ship. One of them would have to sacrifice themselves and fall into hibernation while the other is left entirely by themselves for the next ninety years. I’m slightly tearing up just at the thought of having to spend the rest of your life with absolutely no one to talk to, not a single soul within a twenty light year distance.

They decide that neither of them will go to sleep and that they will in fact build a life together here. Earlier on in the movie we saw Aurora watching some good-bye videos from her friends. One of them mentioned that she hopes that Aurora will find someone to bond with and let them in to her heart, and how she wishes she would stay on Earth but understand that she never really liked it here.

I see her deciding to live the rest of her life together with Jim on the ship as a consequence of the advice in that good-bye video from her best friend. She didn’t find any happiness on Earth with billions of other people and thought that perhaps somehow going to this other Earth-like planet would allow her to find some happiness. She never even intended to make it her permanent settlement. She was planning on staying a year and then going back to Earth and be the first reporter ever to write about life in the colonies on other planets. It’s fascinating to see that she has decided that what will bring her most happiness is simply living the rest of her life with just this one other person, Jim. They end up building a life together and presumably dying of old age on the ship. I wish the movie went into a little bit more detail here as it basically skips to 89 years forward and shows the crew arriving to a beautiful green setup in the main concourse of the ship, with lots of greenery and trips and complete with a tree house.

I ask you, how do you think you would have responded in this situation? Would you have woken up someone like Jim did to have a companion and not die lonely? It is not an easy question.Would you have been tempted by suicide like Jim was for a moment? I can’t tell myself what I would have done, but I can only imagine that excessive absolute loneliness could lead people to take otherwise illogical actions like this.

Now comes the question of necessity of choice. Given that the two of you are already awake and are absolutely the only people awake and will remain so for the next ninety years with absolutely no other people in sight, what would you do? Would you necessarily fall in love out of human nature? I’m finding it difficult to imagine Jim and Aurora living together for the rest of their lives with no romantic interactions. Even if they had each for all other activities like basketball, dancing, eating together, they are after all human and have a primal need to bond on a deeper level with someone. Being just friends wouldn’t be enough. Just imagine the two of them masturbating separately in their own rooms and then meeting up for dinner. I cannot, it just seems like there is absolutely no other way but for the two of them to be forced to fall into love. It almost reminds of that set of forty-or-so questions that you are supposed to ask each other with a partner while looking into each others’ eyes. You are then supposed to feel a much closer romantic connection or even supposedly fall in love with each other.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Passengers’ and can see myself watching it again in the future. It explores some deeply philosophical topics regarding loneliness in an accessible way and moreover really makes oneself think about what it would mean to be truly alone for the rest of your life. I can highly recommend the movie. While watching, remember to keep questions I posed here in mind. How would you react in Jim’s situation?

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