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Review: Stowaway (2021)

Stowaway (2021)

Directed by: Joe Penna

Premise: A three-person space crew on a mission to Mars discovers another passenger was accidentally onboard. When their oxygen system is damaged, the crew must figure out how to survive. 

What Works: Stowaway is the latest in a spate of recent films about space travel including The Martian and Interstellar and The Wandering Earth. This film is narrower in scope and scale than some of these other pictures. The whole cast consists of four people and the story is built around the struggle to survive, giving Stowaway a feel that’s more akin to Alien than Ad Astra. Nevertheless, Stowaway looks great. The sets are an effective compromise between an organic, lived-in space and the sterile cleanliness of a brand-new ship. The filmmakers use lighting to bring some color to the interior of the spacecraft and images are framed effectively. For most of the movie we just get glimpses of outer space through windows and Stowaway is appropriately claustrophobic, visualizing the scarcity of resources within the ship. The movie is also very well cast. The primary crew is played by Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, and Anna Kendrick while the stowaway is played by Shamier Anderson. As the four interstellar travelers realize the problem that they face, the moral and ethical implications weigh on them and that’s evident in all of the actor’s performances, but especially Anderson.

What Doesn’t: Stowaway confronts four highly educated characters with a technical problem but they don’t appear to do very much to try and solve that problem. Much of the movie consists of the characters handwringing over the moral and ethical implications of the choices before them but the astronauts don’t do much that is proactive. This reveals a deeper flaw of Stowaway. The crew members are barely characterized. We know their positions and we get a hint of their personalities but the actors are doing nearly all of the work. Characters are generally defined by what they do and how they do it but since the crew don’t actually do very much they remain one-note. The film doesn’t get us close to them and the cast remains largely remote. As a result, what are supposed to be big emotional moments don’t make much impact. That’s especially evident in the conclusion. The finale ought to bring the themes and plotlines to a poignant climax but the ending is emotionally underwhelming.

DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: Stowaway looks great and has a compelling premise and a few good performances. But the film deals with its ideas superficially and the story doesn’t do enough with its characters to make for satisfying drama.

Episode: #857 (June 27, 2021)