Warning: the following is a discussion of the movie, Passengers. There are major SPOILERS.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, though it seems to me most critics missed the many high quality messages the film imparts.
Christ Pratt (Jim) and Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) were fantastic in their roles. The movie tells the story of a futuristic space ship that carries more than 5,000 people to a freshly inhabited planet. Everyone onboard, including the crew, is placed in hibernation for the entire journey, which takes a century to reach, traveling at something close to one-half the speed of light.
The craft is impressively huge and rightly so because the ship’s hibernation system is programmed to wake the passengers when they are four months from their new home, which means those people will require all the food and comforts of a massive cruise liner to make the full journey.
Everything goes well until the ship enters an asteroid field, which the vessel’s systems handled remarkably well but, with a few important exceptions. Due to the resulting damage, Jim (Chris Prat) wakes inside his hibernation pod, only to find out there are 89 years before the ship reaches their new home. It takes no time for him to realize he will live out the rest of his life without human company. After enduring a full year of being utterly alone in a ship that is crossing millions of miles of empty, dark, space, he begins to fall apart. The movie does a fantastic job at reflecting the authentic pain loneliness can bring.
This is, however, the point at which the film takes its most significant turn. Jim wanders the hibernation bays filled with pods and comes across the hibernating Aurora. He searches the ship’s data base for information about her, watching film clips of her and reading everything she ever wrote (she is a writer). His behavior, at this point, is undeniably creepy. Soon, he begins to wrestle with the notion of waking her to provide himself companionship. We can see him, at his heart a seemingly good man, is slowly being crushed by loneliness. He struggles against his desire to wake her—finally, he succumbs to his growing need to have human companionship and chooses to override the hibernation system for her pod. He awakens Aurora, which as viewers, we instantly understand means he has given her a life sentence on the ship along with him. It is an authentically horrific decision, and we do feel terrible for her – and we cannot help but feel anger and disgust with him.
Jim allows her to think her pod malfunctioned in a similar fashion as his. Over time, he wins her heart, and they fall in love. Despite their being trapped on a ship rushing through the cosmos, they begin to enjoy happiness since they have each other. I believe this is where many critics stopped paying attention because many feel Jim did not deserve happiness after what he did to Aurora, and that is partly right, yet at this point, the movie is far from over.
As with most stories of this type, the truth makes its way to Aurora, she learns what Jim did, and she naturally has a major meltdown realizing her life was taken by him. She rightly does not care about how lonely he was—she (and we the viewers with her) screams with agony knowing all her dreams of a new life on their destination planet have been destroyed by him. And, had the movie ended here, I would have agreed with the critics, but—at this point, again, the movie is not over.
Soon, the physically separated—remember the ship is massive—couple notices the ship is not functioning properly. Glitches arise slowly and increase in frequency and seriousness with each new problem they encounter, which would frighten any passenger aboard a ship in deep space. The glitches lead to one of the crew members waking from a malfunctioning pod. There are now three passengers awake, and they must find, and fix, the source of the ship’s malfunctions, or everyone onboard, all 5,000, will perish.
The crew member, due to the conditions of his waking, discovers he will die before he can solve the ship’s problems. After his death, there is no time for them to wake any other crew members to help since it takes days for each person to come back to full functioning after they wake from hibernation. Jim and Aurora must work together to fix the ship.
As they dig through the mechanicals of the ship, and not knowing what they are looking for, they discover the earlier asteroid hits had damaged it nearly a point of no return. The couple strives to find a way to do the repairs, and they learn that it will require someone to go outside the ship to manually open an exhaust vent door, which allows super-heated gases to release from the core. Without this, the ship will explode, killing everyone onboard.
Jim takes the task on himself and leaves the ship to open the exhaust doors. He and Aurora learn the only way to vent the core is for someone, or something, to manually hold the doors open. With no time left, Jim decides to stand in the lurch holding the doors open and allowing the superheated exhaust to flow through the tunnel, and through him as well. Of course, this means he will die. He makes a choice to sacrifice his own life for three reasons: he has an authentic love for Aurora and wants her to live; he intends to atone for the horrible wrong of having woken her from hibernation; he seeks to save the other 5,000 people onboard the ship.
Jim does die in the process and is blasted away from the ship, though he remains tethered to the craft’s hull. Despite everything that has transpired between them, Aurora loves him and decides to go outside to try to rescue him. She manages to bring Jim back inside, where she has the ship’s medical system perform a life resuscitation on him. It works, and he is once again living and breathing. They go on to live out their lives on the ship and when the other 5,000 wake, they are long gone but, they left behind their story and their imprint on the ship in the form of welcomed changes they made to its interior.
This story tells the story of a person who loses complete control due to the stress of loneliness. At one point, before he woke Aurora, he had contemplated suicide. It also speaks to the human ability to both repent and forgive. Jim does not hesitate to give his life for Aurora, and for the other 5,000 onboard – it was an entirely selfless act, and while it does not wash away what he had done to her earlier, it does speak volumes to our human capacity to learn and grow. As for Aurora, she rightly hated Jim for he did to her but, she also loved him for what he did for her and the others on the ship. She forgave him his great sin of waking her; she knew the totality of Jim as a person was higher than his horrific act committed under the weight of unbearable loneliness. The movie also tells the tale of a woman who loved deeply enough to risk her own life to save another person, Jim. Ultimately, they each made heroic choices; his was to save her and everyone onboard, and she became a hero when she left the ship to rescue him. Neither of them should have ever had to face such choices, because it was not their fault the ship failed but, they did not hesitate when called to action.
Here’s the kicker. Many say Jim should have killed himself rather than wake Aurora. But those people forget that while his act was horrible if he had not woken her, there would have been no one to help him fix the ship, and all 5,000 onboard would have died in deep space. Once they knew about the ship’s problems, they had no time to wake anyone to help. They either acted then, or everyone would die.
I believe this story is a cautionary tale about the authentic pain of loneliness, and it should remind us to check-in on those we know who are utterly alone. It is also a story of a young couple who experienced the extremes of grave sin, followed by authentic repentance, and then made complete by real forgiveness. It is a tale of two people that were called into a painful situation that they never asked for but, had they not been called, 5,000 would have died. They were imperfect people who responded in a near perfect way to save all souls on that ship. In a word, when faced with extraordinary tasks, they acted like, Saints.
I give Passengers my highest rating of FIVE-STARS. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
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