Voyagers hits the ground running. In fact, within the first five minutes the entire premise is established with surprising detail.
Starring Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), Lily-Rose Depp (The King), Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) and Colin Farrell (Ava), the film tells the story of a salvation mission to a distant planet. Earth is nearing its expiration date and humankind’s only hope lies in an ambitious multi-generational experiment to inhabit a new world.
It is an 85-year voyage, which entails a crew of passengers born without parents and raised without knowledge of Earth. They are housed within a secret facility and educated with the sole purpose of travelling and reproducing. Along the way their children and grandchildren will finish the journey and become the first to settle on the new world, giving the human race a second chance.
Ten years into the mission, one of the passengers, Christopher (Sheridan), discovers that a particular beverage consumed each day is medicated to subdue some of the crew’s natural human instincts. His friend Jack (Whitehead) stops taking the drink and experiences an awakening of sorts, and with newly heightened emotions he encourages others to do the same. This results in an uprising and division amongst the passengers, with deadly consequences and catastrophic implications.
Simply put, Voyagers is good stuff, delivering a classic brand of cinema by blending two very distinct genres. Imagine Lord of the Flies taking place in an Alien environment and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. And just like those two films, this story is paced effectively. By establishing the premise swiftly, as aforementioned, director Neil Burger (Divergent) gives himself breathing room to build momentum, whereby mounting tensions reach a boiling point naturally, without seeming rushed.
The young cast are excellent, and the three headliners confidently manage the story’s weighty themes. Sheridan plays to type with a familiar benevolent persona, which rises to adversity. Countering him is Whitehead, whose alpha-male assertiveness is convincing (albeit irritating at times) and invests his villainous character with glee.
Depp’s strong defiance makes her a formidable heroine, who gives both guys a run for their money. And Farrell plays the passengers’ initial leader figure, who embarks with them to see out the first phase of the mission. He offers them guidance and support during their informative years and provides a moral compass for them to adhere to when he is gone.
Voyagers is atypical in many ways. It isn’t as action-packed as the two genres might suggest, and yet it moves along at a fluent pace. Nor is it as teen-oriented as the poster and trailer would have you believe, despite being comprised of a predominantly youthful cast. The narrative is familiar, and yet by placing a coming-of-age story within a classic science fiction scenario, it feels new and exciting.
Despite a some glaring scientific implausibility, Voyagers is an otherwise compelling sci-fi adventure that is as dramatic as it is thrilling. It opens the door for those classic “water cooler conversations” by subconsciously posing topical moral quandaries such as gender identity, biological realities, and where the line between human instinct and contrition lies. It gives viewers much to contemplate and ought to play on their minds long after the credits roll.
In cinemas: April 8, 2021
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Colin Farrell, Lily-Rose Depp
Directed by: Neil Burger