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Passengers

Passengers - Aurora Lane and James Preston

Yesterday evening I watched the 2016 Sci-Fi movie “Passengers“, directed by Morten Tyldum, with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It is a Sci-Fi movie only for the setting: a spaceship heading to a new planet; in reality it has quite nothing to do with science fiction. It deeply analyze the essence of travel and life. It re-propose, in a futuristic world, the mith of pilgrims who put them on travel to start a brand new life in another place, far away from home. Here, Aurora and James, the modern couple of pilgrims, will find a completely unexpected new life, where apparently there is only desperation.

That’s why I want to reserve it a special place into my personal travel movies library.

The Plot

Avalon - the starship
Avalon – the starship

Avalon, a private spaceship, is travelling towards the new planet Homestead II with its load of 5000 passengers who chose to start a brand new life in a colony. The travel is scheduled to last a hundred and twenty years, but an accidental crash with an asteroid caused a malfunction on a computer; due to this malfunction one of the travellers (James Preston) woke up from hibernation ninety years before scheduled.

Soon he realized that he is the only ‘awake’ passenger on the ship. So he went through different stages; from rationality, when he tryes to contact earth to report the failure, to desperation, when he realize he could do nothing but go on the trip, alone. In reality, he is not completely alone, the android bartender, Arthur, keeps him company, like only a bartender can do.

Arthur’s first advice is not to desperate himself for what he can’t have but to enjoy what he actually has; in fact, an entire luxury space ship is at his disposal. So, in the next months, he started using all the amenities provided by the spaceship; he moved himself to the suite, went to see movies, plays and… the best experience one can imagine: wear a space suit and perform a space walking outside of Avalon. He spent in this way some months; but at the end he gave up and decided to wake up a girl, Aurora. While studing her profile, he knews she is a writer and he is caught by her as she speaks about herself on her presentation. It has been an hard choice, but he needs a companion to go on that journey.

No more alone

Aurora and James alone on Avalon
Aurora and James alone on Avalon

Her first reaction is panic, like James’s one. She didn’t accept that there is no way out and tryes the same things done by James, indeed without success. As days and weeks went by, she is accepting her new reality and began a friendship with James. As months went by, they began feeling nearer and nearer one’s another. But one day, when James was popping her the question, Arthur reveals Aurora that she has been awoken by James. It hasn’t been an accident. She is shocked by the news and started hating the guy.

Aurora felt like if he has stolen her the life and she is not willing to forgive him. So they started living as two separated in the same house, despite James’ attempt to ask forgiveness.

A chain of failures

The initial impact with the asteroid not only broke the capsule where James was hibernated, but also started a chain of more and more serious failure on the spaceship which are compromising even its same existance. But Aurora and James are unaware of it up to when Gus Mancuso, the Chief Deck Officer has been awoken by one of these failures. He explained them that spaceship Avalon is fastly going into its own distruction if they don’t find the original failure. Gus died soon after, but he gave them a reason to get closer: they have to collaborate if they want to live.

And so it happens. They soon find the reason of all those malfuncions in the overheating of the main engine. With an heroic act, James risked his life to save Avalon and its inhabitants, but he is now drifting into the deep space. Aurora doesn’t hesitate a minute to go out in the Space and save James.

Now Avalon is safe and the journey can go on again towards its original destination: planet Homestead II. Aurora forgave James, who, has found a great discovery. In the infirmary there is a robo doctor which can be used to re-hibernate. The fact is that there is only one robo doctor, so only one of them could be re-hibernated.

Start a brand new life on Homestead II

James wants to give her life back to Aurora and ask her to enter the robo doctor. We understand that she refused because the next scene is 88 years later when Avalon is approaching Homestead II and all passengers awoke as scheduled.

Arthur, the android bartender of Avalon
Arthur, the android bartender of Avalon

The narrating voice of Aurora, reveals us that she decided to stay awoken with James to build a brand new life, writing the book she was willing to write and giving a sense to their life, even when it seems there is no options. She resumes a quote of Arthur:

You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget to make the most of where you are

Arthur, the bartender – Passengers

In this quote I guess the meaning of this movie stays.

The meaning

We are always busy in struggling trying to reach something that we don’t have, posticipating our happiness to something, someone or somewhere in the future; but in this way we are unable to live our present life with every gift it can give us. Planning for a better future is absolutely the engine of our life, but we can’t simply live in this future that no one can grant us we will reach. We have to learn how to make the most of where we are and of what we get, now. We should be able to start a brand new life even with what we actually have. Living in the future has sense only when we have a plan to realize it. So we can live in this plan to reach or to create our future. Without a plan, living in the future risks to have no sense.

In that extreme situation, Aurora and James had only two options: surrender themselves to desperation or get the most of it. They choose the second option and, to use Aurora’s words:

We got lost along the way. But we found each other. And we made a life….A beautiful life. Together.

Aurora Lane – Passengers

It reminds me a story about Itzhak Perlman, the famous violinist which is affected by poliomyelitis. During a concert at the Lincoln Center in New York City one of the chord of his violin broke. He stopped for a while, then started again from the beginning and made all the concert with one chord less, making one of his best performance ever. At the end he said:

Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.

Itzhak Perlman

The Cast: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt

The cast: Jennifer Lawrence - Chris Pratt - Michael Sheen - Lawrence Fishburne - Andy Garcia
Jennifer Lawrence – Chris Pratt – Michael Sheen – Lawrence Fishburne – Andy Garcia

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are the two main characters of this movie. We could say they are the only characters. During the movie we meet only Michael Sheen as Arthur, the android bartender who keeps company to the two travellers; Laurence Fishburne as Gus Mancuso, the Chief Deck Officer and Andy Garcia as Captain Norris.

If you appreciated the action heroine Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games, you could do nothing but love her in this movie. She starred perfectly the part of Aurora, in all the different situations from the panic after the consciousness of the discovery, through the attraction to her travel companion and the later anger towards whom condamned her to that “prison” up to the final fall in love.

Great is also the part performed by Chris Pratt as James Preston. He masterfully starred the weakness of a man divided between what is right and the consciusness that he couldn’t survive alone for all the journey.

Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt represent the best option to star Aurora and James.

The reasons behind the trip

Passengers - Asleep, on a trip to start a brand new life
Asleep on Avalon – on a trip to start a brand new life

Whether or not you loved this movie, one remarkable things about it is that it invites each of us to investigate the reasons that stand behind our travels. It puts us in front of an incredible journey: awake ourselves after a hundred and twenty years in another part of the Universe, on a new planet and start a brand new life. Here journeys is a clear metaphore of life. These five thousands modern pilgrims are going to colonize a new planet.

The pilgrims moving to America were in some way escaping from something. What are these modern pilgrims escaping from?

That’s the question Aurora ask James, and would have asked to anyone of the other passengers if she had only had the option.

James’s answer is surprising; he is not escaping anything. He says he is a mechanical engineer who likes to “fix things”. Nowadays on Earth no one wants to repair things: it is easier to change them. So he feels like if there’s no more reason for a person like him to stay here, while on a Colony he could feel useful.

Remarkable is also the reason behind Aurora’s travel.

She is the only passenger with a return ticket. Her original plan is to live in the colony for a year and find material for a new book and then come back on Earth after two hundreds and fifty years. She will be the first human being to travel into the future in a certain way.

And you? Would you ever accept to travel this journey? But, most of all, why?


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