'Passengers' is simply a sleek, well-designed curiosity

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'Passengers' stars Chris Pratt as an engineer who is accidentally jostled out of hibernation on a space ship 90 years early. Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Sheen co-star.

Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures/Sony/AP
'Passengers' stars Chris Pratt (l.) and Jennifer Lawrence (r.).

“Passengers” is a sci-fi escapade that, like most of its ilk, wants to be a deep-think experience, too. Directed by Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) and written by Jon Spaihts, it’s set in the distant future aboard a spaceship housing 5,000 paying passengers and more than 200 crew members. All are initially encased in pods in a state of inanimate hibernation for the 120-year journey from an overpopulated Earth to the more hospitable planet Homestead II.

When one of the passengers, Jim (Chris Pratt), an engineer, is accidentally jostled out of hibernation 30 years into the flight due to a meteor hit, he finds himself alone in the big, gleaming, well-appointed spaceship, with only an android bartender (Michael Sheen) to keep him company – until he makes the decision to awaken New York writer Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), the no-longer sleeping beauty who becomes, for a time, his soul mate. Without the ability to reenter their pods, Jim and Aurora will die long before the spaceship reaches Homestead II, so there is a poignancy in their predicament.

If the filmmakers had delved into the direness of their situation and mined it for more than just a grand-scale lovers’ spat in outer space, the movie might have been more than a sleek, well-designed curiosity. Pratt does a creditable job of playing distraught without seeming like a ninny, and Lawrence at least looks stylish, though she’s not called upon to do much acting. You can almost hear her saying to herself, "I wonder what David O. Russell has planned for his next movie and can I pretty please have a role in it?" Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity and action/peril.)

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