Tag: reviews

Passengers: Review

Passengers: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©Columbia Pictures and does not belong to me)

What an interesting concept; Passengers, the ‘love’ story set on a ship hurtling through space. I’ve really been getting into my space-themed science fiction recently. The two ‘passengers’ we see on this giant of a ship are played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and they are more or less the only actors through out the film, with brief moments of Michael Sheen as a robot and Laurence Fishburne as a crew member. Even though Jim and Aurora (Pratt and Lawrence) are the only two humans we see for most of the screen time, they still manage to hold the story well. It is a credit to both Pratt and Lawrence that they are good enough actors that I did not get bored watching them; their characters were interesting and developed, didn’t slip, and I believed in their plight.

My biggest confusion with Passengers was the plot, but this was partly because the trailer for it was misleading in what the film was actually about. The idea that “there’s a reason they woke up” is quickly twisted, almost within the first 10 minutes of the film, but the reality of the situation carries through, a heavy weight that creates a sense of foreboding, even whilst we see the action and blossoming relationship which seems to be going well. As the audience, it drips with dramatic irony: the high can’t last, but the tension we feel makes us wait with baited breath, all the more interested in what will actually happen at the inevitable reveal.

On the other hand, the ‘threat’ that is hinted out from the beginning of the film isn’t as threatening as it should have been, if we consider its suspicious lead up and the anxiety that the audience feel, watching the various technical glitches get steadily worse. However, it still puts our characters in the kind of danger where I was definitely worried for their safety, even if it could have used a few more ‘thrills’.

The science and technology we watch run the ship, and make it a luxurious environment that Aurora and Jim live in, is great. It’s a good look at a hopeful future, and as a sci-fi fan I did appreciate the various ways that humans might develop the technology to get us into space. It’s a believable future, and even though it was true science fiction, it was still a relatable film full of human needs and emotion, so I think it would sit well with a variety of audiences. Both characters’ backgrounds are well developed and helps the audience understand the way they have become the people they are now, with all their strengths and flaws.

I actually preferred the story that we saw through the film than the ‘other’ plot line that the trailer for Passengers was suggesting. As a personal tangent: it really annoys me when trailers are so different from the the films that they are essentially useless. Isn’t the whole point of the trailer to give us a hint of what the film is about? I was pleasantly surprised by the true plot and action within the film, and cannot fault its cast.

Passengers had strong writing and direction, with a good story to clinch it all together – it is without a doubt, a love story, but with flickers of drama, thriller, and the fact it’s set in space, it is by no means orthodox. An interesting, easy-watch film which was far enough from a traditional romance that it sparked all my other interests; it wasn’t mind blowing, but I’d happily get it on DVD. Verdict: 6/10.

 

The Girl With All The Gifts: Review

The Girl With All The Gifts: Review

(note: this is for the book, not the recent film adaptation)

Another dystopian future, I hear you cry? I guess there must be a trend… The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey, gives us a believable look into a zombie apocalyptic future. It takes place two decades after a variation of the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (it’s real, I looked it up. Check “Cordyceps: attack of the killer fungi” on Youtube. David Attenborough even calls it “something out of science fiction”) has caused the apocalypse – but this plot reads as the most sophisticated, understandable zombie-story I’ve ever come across, within a topic that I would usually shrug off as fantasy.

The zombies in TGWALG are known as ‘hungries’; humans whose nervous systems have been taken over by the parasitic fungus, whose sole purpose is to hunt down non-infected humans and bite them – both to eat them as protein, and to pass the pathogen on through spit and blood, transferring the fungus. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time Ophiocordyceps has been used as a potential zombie-creator. A friend pointed out to me that this is the same fungus used by the console game The Last of Us, developed by Naughty Dog. Interesting coincidence, although in The Last of Us the fungus is also airborne, whereas in Carey’s novel, this hasn’t happened.

TGWATG follows a third-person omnipresent narrative, focusing on four main characters. The most prominent and interesting of these four is Melanie, a 10-year-old child genius… who also happens to be a hungry. She has grown up in a lab with other hungry children who all still have a self-consciousness (unlike the usual hungries, which have reverted to an less-than animal-like state). Enter: Parks, an army sergeant charged with looking after the lab’s security; Dr. Caldwell, the scientist trying to understand the miraculous hungry children and use them to find a cure; and Helen Justineau, the woman who teaches the hungry children, and who Melanie sees as a surrogate mother. Input: chaos, and watch their lives get drastically altered. Nothing will ever be the same again.

I find the ‘hungries’ a genuinely horrifying idea; unlike your traditional zombie, they’re fast, mobile, and once they get your scent, cannot be distracted from the hunt. Originally, I decided to read the book so that when I went to see the film, I would have some idea of the scare-rate, and I’m certainly glad I did, because I would not have been expecting their aggression (saying that, my local cinema didn’t even show the film, so I still have yet to see it). One of my favourite things about Carey’s writing, though, is the depth of every character and the post-apocalyptic world that was created. Half of the characters we get to know were born after the “Breakdown”, and it is interesting – refreshing, even – to see the way they view their new world, as someone who is part of the ‘old’ one.

Set in England, there are a lot of mentions to London, its outlying towns, and pre-apocalyptic memorabilia which I found were easy ways to be drawn into the world of the story. That, and Melanie’s thought processes are incredible; detailed, well structured, and easy to empathise with. I had to keep reminding myself she was 10. Sometimes, I did find myself thinking there were too many similes chucked in that drew attention away from the ongoing plot, but otherwise there was good, thorough description and thoughtful, researched science when the chapters focused on Dr. Caldwell and her research.

A thoroughly refreshing – if horrifying – look on a potential zombie apocalypse, The Girl With All The Gifts is dark, well-paced and an ultimately touching story. It is both deeply, totally human, whilst heavy with science that portrays a scary, animalistic future. Also, it has an absolutely killer ending that I never, ever saw coming. Verdict: 8/10.