2016 Awards Profile: ‘Passengers’ from Morten Tyldum



Welcome to the 2016 Awards Profiles series, where we talk about high and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year.  We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not either by quality or being pushed back to the following year.  For the next eight weeks, we will bring you a film every weekday to talk about their potential.  If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below.  If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

Director: Morten Tyldum

Writer: Jon Spaihts

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Sheen

Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 60 years early.

tyldumWhy It Might Succeed: Passengers has made headlines for two big reasons; Jennifer Lawrence – who’s on her 4th Oscar nomination by the time she’s 25 – and Chris Pratt – who’s proving his star power with the overperformance of Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy. Logical combination for pairing them together? America will come in droves to watch. It’s already been publicized that they share a sex scene. The Martian’s awards success was certainly boosted by the fact it’s both Ridley Scott’s and Matt Damon’s highest grossing film (unadjusted) and the Academy in general are beginning showing a kindness to sci-fi especially when it’s about survival stories focused on few characters. Even including sci-fi chamber pieces like Ex Machina that surprised everyone by winning a trophy, though that’s not about survival, but will we call Passengers a chamber piece in a similar way?

The script written by Jon Spaihts has been on the Black List of most liked scripts since 2007 and it had been floating around every studio you can name. It finally got picked up by Sony Pictures Entertainment with Morten Tyldum directing, hot off his Best Director nomination for The Imitation Game. The rest of the crew are top of the line as well. It’s shot by Rodrigo Prieto, who’s in prime contention to knock Chivo off his streak and contend for Best Cinematography with Silence. Maryann Brandon is editing and she was just nominated for The Force Awakens. And production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas was nominated recently for Inception. The release date is set for late December so it’s looking to challenge Rogue One and reap the benefits of an Avatar/Force Awakens-like release window.

Why It Might Fail: Know what Jon Spaihts is known for besides this? He co-wrote Prometheus. Remember what Prometheus is known for? The poor script. Spaihts has evaded blame for that one – and to his credit he’s attached to a bunch of tentpoles and sequels with potential, including Doctor Strange, Pacific Rim 2, The Mummy and Van Helsing – but do those sound like the next Martian or even Guardians of the Galaxy? The Academy may be welcoming more sci-fi films but they have a pretty limited scope on the amount they like. The technical categories were spread across Mad Max, The Martian, Star Wars and Ex Machina for this year and sci-fi films but no room for other successful blockbusters like Jurassic World or Ant-Man.

Even though Pratt is on the rise, the film has mostly been in the news because of the money the two stars will make (especially the fact that Lawrence is making more than Pratt) and not about what the film is about. Will there be a disinterest in the film itself? Too good to be true is a thing when you put too many cooks in the kitchen. Tyldum proved his worth with The Imitation Game but that’s far from Passengers. He’s experienced in thrillers but is he right for a big genre piece like this? Does he have a strong enough voice to make it not feel compromised? It’s being distributed by Columbia Pictures who had a pretty good streak of Oscar films from 2012-2014 but last year was a swing and a miss with almost everything on offer. The biggest award they picked up was Spectre’s song, and we know the response to that win.

Awards Speculation: Above the line awards feel unlikely given the odd combos. It would need to be ecstatically reviewed at the very last minute as it doesn’t have the time to cook in voters minds like The Martian. If it does get reviewed favorably then below the line nominations are likely. Best Visual Effects loves space lately and they haven’t been nominating franchise films unless they really break the mold. The two sound categories are the next best bet then, given the gift of the spaceship but reliant on how many period films we have this year, best production design. This is all going to depend on the tone of the film. It could be a thriller ala Sunshine, it could be romantic or it could be funny. Or will it be a hodgepodge of them all?

Oscar Potential:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Morten Tyldum
  • Best Actor: Chris Pratt
  • Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Original Score

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advanced Oscar Predictions
and see where Passengers ranks!