Passengers (2016)

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‘There’s a reason they woke up early’, so the tagline for this movie goes, as it turns out it’s not a very interesting or even great one. The only great thing the film has going for it is the fun chemistry between its leads and a superbly glossy style for the ship where the action takes place.

Avalon; a spaceship, is travelling to Homestead II, a planet for people to live on. The course will take 90 years but suddenly passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) awakes from his hibernation pod and finds himself alone. Preston’s only company is a barman android named Arthur (Michael Sheen). Later down the line, writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is awoken and with Jim they try to solve the ship’s mystery whilst also falling for each other.

For the positives of this movie, the spaceship has a cool and incredibly sleek design. It’s clear the makers of the film have taken time to think about how certain rooms and items should appear. Avalon is a rotating craft and on the inside, modern technology is advanced with rooms aboard boasting entertainment to rival cruise liners. The connection between Jim and Aurora grows nicely and is believable consistently as they spend more time together. Gravity falls, machines fail and threat does come into play for moments which is good to see but that doesn’t outweigh the rubbish plot.

It’s a shame the story increases in it’s ridiculousness because for the portions of the movie where Pratt is by himself the movie is strong. It of course never reaches that amazing solitary ‘Moon’ vibe of Rockwell/Jones but it gets close and has a neat cold vibe about it as we see him struggle. Sadly as the sci-fi dwindles and the romance takes over it feels like ‘Titanic’ in space, also plot points that create dramatic changes are executed in the most expositional way.

Not only these moments annoyed me in how the writers got the story to move forwards but there were no twists which I expected and the actual thing that caused early rising from hibernation was nowhere near a revelation as it could…should have been. That could have been a clever and possibly dark idea played with but they never tread down that path, even ‘Wall-E’ is a darker comment on society than this is.

Chris Pratt is engaging and manages to submerge his usual Pratt shtick as the cabin-fever sets in. Jennifer Lawrence is a glowing presence as she steps into the story and breaks down with suitable emotion upon realising why she’s there. Together as a couple of love struck space travellers they work well and a spark is clear. Michael Sheen plays a near emotionless character to convincing standards with ever present glossy eyes and almost creepy smile adding to his role.

This film gets more dumb as it continues and makes you forget the nice intense moments that it started with. Aside from a captivating pairing of actors this is a creepily played out love story that doesn’t know how to stop.

5.5/10

 

Headhunters (2011)

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Unquestionably slick and even more undeniable is the bloodiness involved in this Norwegian-Danish film. There’s a sure ride to bolt yourself into as you hurtle through the thrills of watching the lead character try and outdo a capable tracker and ex special forces guy.

Intelligent headhunter Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) may have the job and wife of a rich man but his finances are more troubling, which is why he frequently pals up with a friend to steal art and sell it on. At the opening of his wife Diana’s (Synnove Macody Lund) gallery, Brown meets Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who wants to work for the company Brown represents, he also happens to own a valuable painting, which leads Roger down a slippery and very dangerous slope.

Based on a successful novel by Jo Nesbo, this is an exhilarating screenplay by Ulf Ryberg and Lars Gudmestad who ensure the pace is kept sharp and fast and even with a couple of far-fetched moments we still buy into the narrative. It says something that a character I began not liking ended up being one I rooted for simply down to that struggle that universally gets audiences on board. Characters are great when they have flaws but Roger and his ways outside of the coupling with Diana make you less than sympathetic when she does the same thing, so it doesn’t hit as strongly, like if he’d never been with another woman.

Morten Tyldum of last year’s ‘The Imitation Game’ fame and nominated glory was on it way before Sherlock Holmes dealt with codes and sexuality (which sounds like Sherlock anyway!). He directs in a way that’s almost break neck after the twenty minute mark, it’s like a muddy Bourne as the action follows a singular male in ever dangerous scenarios forever being tracked down. There’s a slick touch throughout but that doesn’t mean that Tyldum doesn’t forego on the grittier bloody side of things, including a moment that’s literally full of s**t.

You kind of never know what to expect, even if the ending is always something you see coming, you aren’t 100% sure of how the movie will reach that point. That of course is a mark of good directing and story-telling. The thrills are strong and brutal imagery is not something you’ll avoid watching this movie, a dog being a great if not sad example of that. In a strange way this movie has elements of black humour and also comes across like a ‘Hustle’ episode in the way it feels like people are being conned or double-bluffed, the ending and how the police will report everything is dealt with in a way that Tony Jordan of BBC notoriety would have enjoyed with his own gang led by Mickey Bricks.

Coster-Waldau has that usual charm we now all know and mostly love thanks to ‘Game of Thrones’, but he adds to it with a mysterious threat and hit-man edge that keeps him motivated and solely focused on getting Roger. Lund plays Diana in a way that makes you feel at first that she could be a boring typical wife role, but then the film develops and so does your view on just who she is and what to make of her which is acted well by her. Hennie is the star and goes through hell and high blood from suited rich man to stripped and shaved victim, for the price of stealing art.

I really don’t want Hollywood to remake this, even though they’re planning on it. Why? Well because this is so well made, gory, strange and exciting that trying to replicate it will be terrible. A thriller that ticks all the boxes and adds new ones too.

7.5/10