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Passengers script reviewed

KeanuReeves.jpgGabriele Muccino's film Passengers starring Keanu Reeves is due out next year, and I was luck enough to get my hands on what seemed to be a copy of the script from Jon Spaihts. As with these things it's probably quite an early draft, something that is backed up when reading it, but it's also pretty good too.

You might remember the last time I talked about the film I was starting to be a little sceptical. While the idea screamed science fiction, the producers were talking romantic drama. I can now say that the two are true of the script, and it actually works on both levels.

First up, my thanks to reader Anakin McFly who sent me a link to a copy of the script which I may well drop in the article later on, if I find out it's okay to do so. McFly comes from the Keanu site WhoaIsNotMe, and I have to say well done to him for getting a copy of the script and huge thanks for passing it on.

Before I go any further, here's the blurb for you, if you're not familiar with the story of Passengers.

Set in the future, Passengers centres on Jim Preston (Reeves), a mechanic on a 120-year journey to a distant colonized planet in another galaxy, who becomes the first traveller to experience pod hibernation failure. Having woken up 100 years too soon, he is stranded in the world of an interstellar spaceship with only robots and androids for companionship.

A year into his journey, he decides to wake up a fellow passenger, a beautiful journalist named Aurora. They fall in love but must soon deal not only with the revelation of Jim's misjudged act of waking her but a major malfunction of the ship itself.

I enjoyed reading the script and there were perhaps a few surprises for me, not least being that the film does in fact concentrate quite a degree on the relationship between the two leads, but also that I found it worked and had me engaged. In fact come the final twenty to thirty pages and I had to stay up reading until I'd finished it to find out what happened.

The script does feel like an early version though as there are a number of areas that feel rather light, where you can see potential for moments of deeper examination of the characters and they way they are feeling and yet it's kept rather light and open for another writer or director to interpret. At times it did feel like a lighter Keanu Reeves romantic drama.

I wanted the year spent by the lead character, on his own, with only some robots for company, to be a little darker, a little tougher to take, and maybe that's something changed in future versions of the script, maybe that's something left open for the director.

I think perhaps a good example of the first half of the film and how it treats the science fiction element is to think of The Lake House and how the amazing idea of time travel was handled in that story. It's never at the fore, just a given. Don't get me wrong, that actually works and it's an effective film, but you can see a lot more potential for depth and examination of some of the situations, the characters, and the events around them. However in The Lake House, the film focuses on their relationship and comes out as a romantic drama, not so with the entirety of Passengers.

The script handles the science fiction like Moon (Filmstalker review), where the world they are in is just accepted, and the focus is on the character, or here characters. What I do hope is that they aren't going to try and replicate The Lake House idea just because Reeves is in the film, but that they do examine the loneliness and isolation a bit more, and bring it more towards the feel that Moon had.

I was surprised how pulled in I was by the script and how the final act really caught me. I think the turnaround is the first of the three big surprises in the story, for I feel there are three in this version of the script. The first perhaps isn't that big, but it is quite the story changer. It begins to take the story in one direction, a direction that you probably won't have been expecting from the opening, and then delivers a second surprise that changes things again.

I won't go into too much detail, in fact none at all. Suffice to say it's from here on that the drama element really kicks in and the story moves forward with some pace.

This did get me caught up, even if some of the elements are rather predictable, and yet there's still something left to give you the biggest kick of all, and it does, I was certainly surprised when I read what was going on.

Come the ultimate end of the story and I did find myself a little touched, and it's something that I think will be a strong moment on film, perhaps pushing out a few tears in the process, but I also found a few questions that made me think this wasn't the final draft.

I can't really say without spoiling, but there were two sections in the story which I felt weren't properly explained and the logic seemed a little out. I could guess the connections that were supposed to be there or made by me, but it definitely needed a little more work to iron those creases out.

Other than that I was surprised how much I liked it, considering the producers promise of a romantic film. It's not just that, and in fact once the game changers come into play then the film does start looking more to the science fiction and the drama side of the story, and at times there is strong suspense and a couple of good surprises.

What was also surprising was the humour in it, and I think just how well the dialogue came across as at times being sarcastic and even dark. The two characters take journeys that allow for a lot of exploration of the different aspects of the human spirit, the darker side and the more positive, optimistic side, and throughout we see these touched on, offering the director the chance to bring these out and explore them a little more.

There have been some rumours of other cast members, one being Eddie Izzard and the other Tommy Lee Jones. Well there are two other roles, and while I'm not totally convinced by any of the casting mentioned, even for the leads, they are good choices. I could see Izzard's expressions working well for the character of the robot, and Jones looks the part for the other character as well as being able to deliver the emotional depth required.

Is Reeves right for this role? Well if they make it Hollywood and romantic, then he's got a track record to make it work. If they don't, and Reeves pulls out his best performances, then he could deliver the range and depth to make it work and gain a lot of praise, but for me it has to be something like his performance in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (Filmstalker review)

I'm rather looking forward to it.

Here's what Anakin McFly who passed me the script he has online at WhoaIsNotMe, said about the story:

”Passengers has an awesomely dark and twisted sense of humour. What worries me is that they might try to change it for a mainstream audience and make it happier and more formulaic, because the script is near perfect as it is.”

I'd agree, although I wouldn't say that it's awesome, it does point in these directions though and could deliver a really interesting and enjoyable film. Let's see what Jon Spaihts has done since with it and how Gabriele Muccino brings it to the screen.



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