Gabriele Muccino needs a hit.
And “Passengers” just might be that hit. Especially with Keanu Reeves aboard to star.
The script for “Passengers,” written by Jon Spaihts, was impressive and unusual, and it doesn’t surprise me that it’s actually making its way towards a start date. I’m just shocked it took this long. Morgan Creek is producing the movie, which Muccino is set to direct. He was the filmmaker behind the Will Smith hit “The Pursuit Of Happyness,” but was also the filmmaker behind the Will Smith flop “Seven Pounds,” meaning he’s in the unenviable position right now of reeeeeeeally needing to make a movie that connects with the audience. I’m glad he signed on for this one, because I think it needs a director who isn’t genre-obvious.
The film deals with an interstellar trip to colonize a planet in a distant galaxy, a process that demands that everyone onboard a giant cargo ship be frozen for 120 years. Imagine if someone went wrong with the ship, though, and you were woken up after only 20 years with no way of refreezing yourself onboard. You’re looking at living out the rest of your life alone while the ship is in transit from one galaxy to another. It’s a nightmare scenario, and Jim Preston (Reeves) isn’t sure at first how to handle it.
What begins as a deep space SF version of “Cast Away” really gets interesting when Preston makes the decision to “accidentally” wake up a woman early as well so he isn’t alone anymore. Which is sort of akin to giving someone else cancer so you don’t have to die by yourself. It’s a terrible thing to do, but completely understandable, and that tension is a big part of what drives the film.
They haven’t cast the female lead yet, but that’s certainly a big part of the equation. Aside from the two of them, there are very few other human contributions onscreen, so chemistry will be key to making “Passengers” work. There are robots and computers onboard as well, so there are voice roles to cast, and there are some impressive complications that the script throws as them as well.
Even if you didn’t like “Seven Pounds” or “The Pursuit Of Happyness,” those films suggest to me a director who knows how to craft a great image and also give it emotional heft, and that combination of skills is exactly what is required for “Passengers.” Here’s hoping the cast really clicks and that we’re seeing this one on screens sooner rather than later.
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