The Avalon is a starship that set out from Planet Earth thirty years ago, carrying its crew and a cargo of five thousand people to a distant world one hundred and twenty years away, all with the plans to found a colony there. Those passengers have their own reasons for not wishing to stay on their home planet, and for Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) it was down to there being nothing keeping him there, not friends nor family, and a desire to be a fixer for those who were trying to establish civilisation on this new frontier. However, on the journey there has been a problem: the ship hit an asteroid which has started to cause problems, such as waking Jim up from suspended animation with ninety years left to go...
That was your high concept, the Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked in space with no hope of surviving to the end of the trip, and a lifetime spent with nobody to talk to and next to nothing productive to do without going insane with loneliness. So what happened? He goes insane, that's what, he lasts just over a year and cannot take it any more: Jim has found his Sleeping Beauty who he has been watching slumber in her pod, and something in him snaps, he needs company and this poor girl is his prime candidate. Her name is Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), and he wakes her up, yet does not tell her the whole truth in that he admits he was revived in error, but pretends the same thing has happened to her too.
When it has not, he has roused her personally, thereby consigning her to the same death sentence that Jim is undergoing. Some saw this was essentially the tale of a woman who is seduced by her murderer, for of course they fall in love, but Jon Spaihts' script was more complicated than that, and offered up a sight not often seen in the movies, a creepy Chris Pratt. He was more usually a leading man who would be playing everyone's friend, all round professional good guy and solid moral centre, therefore it was intriguing to see him get an unsettling, faraway look in his eye when dealing with Aurora, suggesting he was further gone in madness than ultimately the plot allowed him to indulge himself by delving that far into.
That said, there was a point when, as a major studio movie, Passengers decided it was not going to pursue that disturbing set of consequences too far when it was that nice Chris cast as the leading man, and it would be little surprise that Jim proves himself to be a hero when the eventual crisis grows too dire for the ship to ignore; we have seen displays develop a glitch, the robot assistants malfunction slightly, but the worst has yet to come. Jim and Aurora were not entirely alone, obviously there were over five thousand sleeping souls they could have woken up, but there was also an android bartender named Arthur who was played by Michael Sheen, a reliable presence in the cocktail lounge, always happy to serve a whisky or some other beverage, and provide a shoulder to cry on with a limited number of responses to answer with.
These sequences led many audiences to see parallels with Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which also had a genial but not quite human bartender in the shape of Lloyd, and there was a sense of The Avalon as a huge, near empty hotel that had been automated to provide every convenience aside from actual human company it selfishly wants: it was also the location where the male protagonist was trapped by circumstance and going around the bend in the process. This also shared a connection with the sole black character, though to say any more would be to give too much away. The production design was as much responsible for that off-kilter effect as any of the narrative stages, which included the inevitable moment when Aurora twigs she is trapped in this environment with the man who not only obsessed over her for a long while, but now is her sole company, and effectively her executioner. The emotional impact of such a realisation was not soft-pedalled by any means - Lawrence got to do her angry acting - until the conclusion where a redemption was offered, though it was ambiguous as to what had really happened, another layer of intrigue in a film that wrestled between playing it safe and allowing the terrible implications to sink in. Music by Thomas Newman.