[Disclaimer: this post contains some spoilers for the 2016 film Passengers]
Have you ever been stuck alone on a long journey somewhere, and wished desperately that you had someone with you? Would you still wish them there if you knew it meant that they’d be stuck there the entire way too? Perhaps it would make things better for both of you.
What if, however, I now told you that the journey was over 90 years long, and that making this choice meant that you would condemn the other person to die on this journey with you? Could you foredoom someone else to such a fate, just to avoid having to endure it alone? This is the premise of the 2016 sci-fi film Passengers, an action-packed, romantic film that hinges on a series of interesting choices.
The protagonists, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Laurence) are two out of 5000 odd passengers on a starship travelling to a new planet. Contained in hibernation pods for 120 years, the passengers on-board are going to be the new inhabitants of the new planet. By choosing to be here, they are willingly giving up their old lives on earth – knowing full well that all the friends, family and relationships that they had will be dead by the time they wake up. The various reasons behind their choices give us interesting insights into their lives. They’re searching for something more that what they had, they’re looking for a chance to start afresh. It perhaps makes the audience question whether they would ever take such an opportunity themselves, were it provided to them today.
When the ship passes through an asteroid field, it malfunctions, and Jim finds himself awake and presented with the dilemma we had begun with. After a year of trying to go back into hibernation, pass his time with all the technology available to him on the ship, and at one point even considering suicide, he takes the final choice to wake up one more person – Aurora. Of course, she has no idea that it was him who woke her, and together the two of them make a life on the ship, bound by this seemingly coincidental misfortune that has befallen the two of them. They explore the ship, look for solutions, fall in love, discover why the ship is malfunctioning, have a fight, save the ship and are eventually left with one final choice. There is drama and action, romance and friendship, hope and fear and sadness.
A lot of this story is silly and predictable, but as mentioned above, it gives a viewer lots to dwell on in terms of the choices the characters made. Even at the end, they find a way to induce hibernation once again – but there’s only the provision for one of them to do so, leaving them with one final choice to make. The choice seemed predictable to me, but after all, I suspect that I would have chosen the same in such a situation.