Monday, January 2, 2017

Movie Review: PASSENGERS

Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a mechanic on board of the Avalon spaceship, voyaging in space from Earth to Homestead II in 120 years, carrying 5000 humans looking to colonize a new planet. Everybody is in hibernation when still 90 years away from Homestead II, Jim is mistakenly awakened. Not knowing what caused this malfunction and not being able to put himself back to sleep, Jim has to face his life inside the ship and resist the urge of waking up other passengers, one in particular who he has taken an interest for: Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence).

Being a gigantic Sci-Fi fan you could say that it is hard to get a better packaged movie than this: two great A-list actors, a good director, a blacklist script and a f***ing amazing premise. I was very excited for the film and as usual had not watched or read any promotional material so when I entered the theater I was surprised to get a film that I really did not expect, one that was hugely problematic, but had such a beautiful grit to it that I could not resist it.

Passengers is one of the most strange filmmaking efforts I have ever seen. I don't mean tonally or stylistically, I mean from the perspective of filmmaking itself: it gave me a mixture of feelings that I have rarely ever had watching a film. It's flawed, deeply so, and I mean it, it has some really, really bad stuff in it, but what really shocked me about this film is just how it managed to keep me interested and attached to the narrative no matter how many left turns it took, I was always absorbed by it despite the really heavy problems that weigh it down.

Talking about those, the plot really has some issues. It is tonally unbalanced and switches from one scenario to the other way too quickly. Moreover, it is handled terribly, with the chain of the events spiraling way too conveniently for its own good. It manages to fill many holes by heavy exposition scenes, yet you can't help but see a flaw in the structure. I won't go into spoilers, but there's a detail in the film that adds even more to the weak mechanics of this plot that moves forward very unconvincingly, even though I'll say that it manages to give the film a pace that no matter how strange, brings it to an interesting climax and an overall exponential chain of events.

I mean, lets look at the editing of this film now. It is truly something abysmal. I was left wordless to see such bad editing in a professional $100 million Hollywood picture. I mean when they're having a conversation it is borderline fine switching from shot to reverse shot, but I was aghast seeing how they put together sequences. There are scenes that have absolutely zero continuity to them, switching form moving shot to steady and back again another two times without having any sense in it. The way it jump cuts at times actually hurt my eye as it was done so poorly. And probably worst of all is the editing on a macroscopic scale: the montages are absolutely disorientating, they switch back and forth at times with scenes for time slots of 30 seconds each and it starts giving you a headache. Moreover, how the film jumps from one location to the other is baffling to say the least, it makes cuts that are truly disgusting and have no place in a professional film like this. I was truly amazed at what I saw.

Still, none of the weirdly gargantuan problems above managed to overcome what is a beautiful story about two people falling in love in the most unique conditions. More and more as I review and watch films I discover the value of novelty and originality and the film's premise is just too genius for me not to be constantly interested, especially because it keeps you on your toes. I can confidently say that I was always uncertain of what was going to happen next and that made for a gratifying watch.

If the film partially fails on plot, it does not on story. There might be different elements that scream "Studio-Tampering" here and bother the continuity, but the the story manages to overcome those, once again showing its power, and it never loses its charm. The characters are really interesting and their situation is even more so.

Pratt and Lawrence have to be really commended for portraying a romance that is so believable I got lost in it. You buy so much into their chemistry, their dynamic, their unique situation you get swallowed by a portrayal of a relationship that is raw and beautiful in smallest moments. I don't know if my romantic side is just exaggerating, but as much as I wanted to let this film go because of its continuous annoying and frustrating problems, I simply could not. I was captivated by the characters and their journey, it was never repetitive and always gave you something new to chew on. I left the theater really feeling something and being touched by the emotional relationship that was established. There is a point towards the end of the film that really made me realize how much I had actually liked it. It is a line from Aurora and it was representative of all of the character change these two people go through and really made me reflect upon themes that the film looks at.

Passengers is a beautiful love story set in space, an original film that wastes some potential and frustrates you repeatedly because of its huge flaws, but one whose sheer power in storytelling and charm manages to overcome the problems and give you a satisfying experience.

James' Score: 7/10

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