Directed by: Joe Penna Rated: TV-MA Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Studio: Netflix Screenwriter: Joe Penna
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson, Toni Collette
A private company called Hyperion, not NASA, is behind unmanned and manned missions to Mars in Stowaway. The audience never sees anyone from there, but they are in constant contact with the commander, Marina Barnett (Collette), one of the three-person crew. Like NASA, they do seem to care and have, more or less, a competent command structure.
After the point of no return, a stowaway is discovered on board. How does that happen? Don’t fret about it too much because the explanation is flawed. Who from the ground crew didn’t notice a person is missing? Hello, security! Okay, it becomes evident that Michael (Anderson) didn’t do it on purpose. That doesn’t take away the fact that where he was hidden has damaged a critical component of the ship. A ship designed for only three people, with no spare parts.
Stowaway isn’t an action, horror, or thriller space film. Really, after the plot is revealed, the story isn’t about if or how the problem can be rectified (though they try); the underlying message is denial. It’s a movie with some pace with characters unwilling to accept a horrible truth. There isn’t enough oxygen for all of them to make it to Mars alive. Stowaway’s actual center is on choices. What or who is worth sacrificing? Can they live with themselves if they do what they are being told needs to be done? Denial of an unfortunate moral dilemma.
To become an astronaut means going through rigorous training, physically and mentally. On top of that, the individual adds something extra to a potential mission based on their specific expertise. Zoe Levenson (Kendrick) is a doctor, and David Kim (Kim) is a biologist. Between them and the commander/pilot, Marina, who was trained for this two-year mission, Michael is the odd man out. Should Michael die because he can’t do anything for the mission? Should one of the others kill themselves out of guilt, despite the situation not being the fault of any one of them? Should they try their luck with some hail-Mary ideas that might solve the problem? Acceptance, denial, and hard choices are the center of Stowaway.
What would you do?
While the plot has legs, they collapse midway through the film. The story’s desire to stretch the limits of human companion and resilience is drowned out by the gross indecision of the crew, making the final act of the movie lackluster.
The film’s pace and low energy lack the excitement that might otherwise be expected of the talented cast in this film. Still, for a movie that takes place in a few small rooms aboard a space taxi to Mars, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. While the cast is talented, this script didn’t allow any of them to do more than recite lines. None of them shine or stand out, but that’s not their fault.
Stowaway is ultimately a movie that plays on the waiting room TV that you’re sort of invested in. It’s easily forgettable. There are far better space films out there that deal with similar themes that better utilize their cast and time allowance.
Stowaway is not worth a place on your watchlist.
—a pen lady