It is the future and planet Earth has become hotter and drier. It is clear, that it cannot sustain life much longer. The decision is made to send humans into space with the mission to colonise a habitable planet. Unfortunately, that new home is 87 years away. The voyagers chosen by Earth are genetically excellent specimens grown in the laboratory and then raised in an exclusively interior environment. This group never experiences the outside world so they can be trained to exist in the close quarters of a spaceship on a decades-long journey.
One of the team devising this program, eventually decides to go on the journey with the group. Although Richard (Colin Farrell) is in his 40s and will die long before the ship reaches its destination, he believes his role as a mentor and father-figure for the ship’s crew will mean the project can launch in four years hence, rather than seven.
The story jumps ten years into the ship’s journey when the crew are in their late teens. They are beginning to question their life aboard and the leadership of Richard. Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead) make a discovery about their mission that makes them suspicious about the stories they have been told.
The line that Richard has given them all these years is that they will give birth to the next generation and those children will eventually give birth to the colonisers of the new world. Their understanding is that they are to be the grandparents of the people who continue human life elsewhere. However, now they doubt the purpose of that mission and begin to question everything about their lives. As this breaking down of their society occurs, potential new alliances emerge.
VOYAGERS is definitely inspired by William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies and it has some similarities to the 2016 science-fiction film PASSENGERS. Writer and director Neil Burger also used the film and television series DAS BOOT, about a U-Boat in World War 2, as a visual reference. Burger states that he wanted to make a story about “human nature in a vacuum”. He achieves this and at times the film has a claustrophobic feel to it as tensions rise and there is literally no safe place the crew can escape to.
Performances are good from Farrell, Sheridan and Lily-Rose Depp. The other young actors are fine in their roles which are presented more as types than rounded characters. There is a definite YA feel to proceedings. This is not meant as a criticism of Young Adult Fiction, but to identify the scope of the story-telling on offer. Burger directed the 2014 movie DIVERGENT and has experience with this form and genre.
The ideas being explored are in themselves interesting, however they are not pushed hard enough in any direction. Power and its exercise is the largest topic dramatised and for the most part it is examined mostly through action sequences, which is appropriate for the younger and broad audience this movie is shooting for, but is ultimately somewhat unsatisfying. In a world where democracy is being kicked around and tested more than ever, maybe VOYAGERS needed to be a bit cleverer than a tale of good guys versus bad guys with a showdown at the end.
However, the film moves along at a good pace, delivers a competent story and is an entertaining enough way to spend 108 minutes at the movies. (6.5/10)