With a story that fades into the nothingness of its setting, Netflix’s latest space drama comes up short despite the good work put in from its short handed cast. Stowaway starts off on an intriguing adventure, but is just left floating and desperately gasping for air for its duration.
Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) leads a three person, two-year expedition to Mars. Joined by biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) and medical researcher Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick). The expedition is set up as a three person job. Each have their roles within the crew, and there’s enough supplies to keep everybody on board alive and well for their trip. What nobody accounted for however, was a stowaway. In this case, a launch engineer who is found unconscious in the ceiling panel of the CDRA (Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly) life support system. Upon Marina’s shocking discovery, the stowaway Michael (Shamier Anderson), falls to the lower deck but not before causing damage to the CDRA system.
The crew are now faced with shock and panic as not only are they one crew member larger, but they’re also now facing a life critical risk. With limited resources around them, the now four person team will have to figure out a way of producing enough air to keep them all safe.
Ever since Alfonso Cuarón’s space spectacle Gravity (2013) changed the game for space based drama, we’ve seen a huge increase in productions for the genre. Many have attempted to replicate the success of Gravity, and most have failed. Netflix’s Stowaway is one of them.
At the base of its story is something different. An unlikely scenario given the amount of time and preparation that goes in to sending people to space. But the reasoning isn’t explained, at all.
We are as baffled by this mysterious stowaway as the crew are. Even Michael himself can’t recall how he ended up being shot out of Earth’s atmosphere without waking up or even having any prior memory of what led to him falling unconscious. This is where the inexperience of writer/director Joe Penna comes into play.
In many cases you’d believe that Michael would be given the centre scope in character development. Almost like his role on the ship will be integral to the following events. But that’s not the case. As a matter of fact the same can be said to the other cast members as well.
There’s not a complex story here. It’s another space journey that has quickly gone awry, and we the audience are expected to be thrown into one nail-biting set piece after the next. There is really only one moment in where that is the case though, which we have to wait for until the movie’s finale.
This would naturally leave us with a lot of time to get to know the crew on the ship. We get some background information of where they’ve come from and what they have waiting for them when they return, but beyond that it’s pretty two dimensional stuff. So much so that the acting talents of Toni Collette (Hereditary, I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Anna Kendrick (Noelle, Pitch Perfect), Daniel Dae Kim (Raya and the Last Dragon, Always Be My Maybe) and even Shamier Anderson, who is still breaking onto the scene, are left with little material to engage with.
We are introduced to some great camerawork and greeted to some impressive visuals, but the story and script left me feeling like there’s little life to this movie beyond that. We’ve seen some truly engrossing space related dramas over the last few years, but Stowaway is unfortunately not one of them, predominantly due to the opportunities it misses.