Passengers is the Best Film Yet To Be Made – By @AlexTaylorHello
By Alexander Taylor
Passengers is the Best Film Yet To Be Made
There’s been a lot of talk of tension this week. It’s getting that friction across in your writing. The stuff that rubs up conflict and sparks interest. The effervescent Peter Souter mentioned just how needed it is in advertising. If it doesn’t have that tension, it is boring. And our job is over.
I watched a great video last week. It’s called Passengers, Rearranged, and you can find it on YouTube. It’s about the hollywood blockbuster Passengers (2016) starring the charming Chris Pratt and the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence, whose screen presence couldn’t save the boring story driving it. The problem was, it was fundamentally predictable.
Heavy spoilers coming up. And tension. Oooh, tension.
The first act is Pratt pratting about in space. It’s entertaining, but nothing particularly worth giving a shit about. He is woken up from a voluntary coma by accident. The ship is malfunctioning. He realises he’s going to die on the ship, and is driven to such loneliness that he commits a desperate, unthinkable act. He wakes up another passenger, full-well knowing that this is committing her to same fate. The second act is their love story, the third is his redemption, when she inevitably finds out about his dirty little secret.
It’s a boring story, shot and acted beautifully. It’s a solid five out of ten. You know what will happen at every point in the story, and you know Pratt’s dirty secret from the start.
So the video asks, what if we rearranged the story? Simply put, what if the audience was as clueless to Pratt’s character as Lawrence is when she wakes up? What happens if you swap the acts?
You have the air of mystery, and the information disadvantage. When you know as much as all the characters on the screen, there is nothing for you to learn. Basically, there’s no real reason for you to watch other than to see how the story pans out. This is highly predictable, since all information is available to you.
You’re Jennifer Lawrence. You wake up on a deserted space station that you expected to be teeming with life. Who’s that over there? It’s a man. Oh, it’s Chris Pratt. He looks remorseful. Another passenger who has suffered the same dreadful fate? Or is there something else going on?
So this is tension. It’s a friction. Who is this man, and why doesn’t his story seem quite right? In SCA we talk a lot about the circle of information. Give the audience just enough to connect the dots for themselves. Make it a puzzle. Make it interesting.
This should give our work hope. We may have a 5/10 piece of work on our hands, and if we play with the elements, we could turn the audience from being Passengers to being in the Driving Seat.