Film Friday: Passengers

When Jim Preston wakes up on a spaceship he gets the shock of his life. He was supposed to sleep through the 120 year journey and wake up refreshed and ready for a whole new life on the planet Homestead 2.

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Jim discovers his pod has glitched and woken him up way too early. On the ship he has all the food he needs, a good supply of comfort and distractions, but with the other 5000 passengers asleep, the only company he can find is Arthur, the ever patient, platitude-spouting android who runs the bar on the ship. Jim has many a conversation with the pleasant robot, and when he tells him of his troubles Arthur advises him to appreciate what he has, to make the best of his situation. Hard words when you bear in mind that Jim is looking at a long, lonely time on that space ship. Plus he is not a gold standard passenger, and that limits his coffee choice…

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I’m an introvert and I have to admit there was something about Jim’s predicament which seemed appealing to me, for a while anyway. Time alone in a bubble, with all life’s necessities laid on. Away from the usual pressures I pile on myself and the battles of every day life. I sometimes feel a kind of loneliness, not from being without people, but from being with them. A disconnection, a struggle to connect. So some time out on a quiet spaceship didn’t look so bad. But even for me I guess sooner or later the whole thing might well drive me a tad doolally. Jim tries everything to change things, tries to break into the pilot’s bay, tries to email earth, tries to affect the course of the ship. But the whole thing is impenetrable. So he begins to contemplate an extreme solution… waking someone else up.

CS Lewis once described hell, in his book The Great Divorce, as a place where folks keep moving further and further away from each other so as not to have to put up with each other. Jean Paul Sartre apparently once wrote, ‘Hell is other people.’ For Jim it turns out to be a complete lack of other people. Films are often about other things, and this one put me in mind of the great movie Groundhog Day, in which Phil finds himself stranded and forced to keep on reliving the same day. What will Jim do with the time he has here, with the life he has, with the situation he finds himself in? I recall once seeing one of the cast of Friends joking about a desire to win the lottery, which seemed kind of odd as they were earning a lot of money at the time. Is the grass always greener somewhere else? Is Arthur the Android suggesting ‘pie in the sky’ to Jim when he suggests accepting his lot? If we find ourselves in a fairly peaceful, ordinary, satisfactory situation, can we be at peace with it, or will we always be glancing over the fence? Perhaps our dissatisfaction with this present, often dysfunctional life is a sign of our longing for that eternal kingdom of wholeness, shalom, a sense that we were made for more than this broken world. To slightly misquote St Augustine, ‘Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God.’ Perhaps ultimately we’re all passengers here, on this planet earth, heading for somewhere else. Longing for a better kind of world.

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