Movies set aboard big spaceships for long journeys, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Silent Running,” can make you wonder how the folks on board spend their time. Yes, it’s a lot of space, but it is still confined space.
The 2016 fantasy-drama “Passengers” — which FX shows Monday and Tuesday, July 6 and 7 — addresses that issue, with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as the major characters awakened from a deep slumber after an asteroid hits their vessel that’s destined for a colonized planet.
Actually, Pratt is the one revived by the collision; he’s an engineer alone in being conscious, and he decides he needs company, so he wakes up the journalist played by Lawrence. More than 5,000 other passengers remain dozing, so these two pretty much have the run of the place, for better and for worse.
Their trek is supposed to span 120 years, and since they can’t go back to their previous state of sleep, they probably won’t live to tell others about it. They bond — closely — over their shared situation, with an android played by Michael Sheen on hand for some comic relief. However, he also knows some things that make for a tense race to the finish line.
Even more emotionally than visually, though the visuals are stunning at times, “Passengers” succeeds in merging the basics of sci-fi with the roots of a romance. And Lawrence and Pratt work well together, which is a good thing, since this movie would be doomed instantly were that not the case.
While they’re not the only actors on hand here (Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia also turn up), they certainly are the focus. They have a tightly interlocked arc to go through, demanding lightness as well as tougher stuff, and they make that trip together quite successfully.
Also, the film gives director Morten Tyldum the opportunity to try something that seems vastly different from the picture he still may be best-known for, “The Imitation Game.” At the same time, this still is a relationship story principally, so he’s on familiar territory there … just with a lot more technology to handle, and clearly with a more sizable budget that reportedly netted Lawrence and Pratt very big paydays.
If you debate booking passage for “Passengers,” thanks to the intriguing premise and the effective acting, the advice is simple: Do it.