Movies set in space are almost as bad as time-travel movies due to the level of suspension of disbelief you must accept for an enjoyable viewing.
Space films based on real events like Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff (1983) or Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (1995) are exceptions for obvious reasons. But for hits like Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009), Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (2013), Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014), Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2015), and yes, even Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), you have to agree going in that this is more fantasy than reality.
Joe Penna’s new sci-fi drama Stowaway on Netflix inherently suffers from disbelief because of its contrived plot.
We’re introduced to a small spaceship crew of commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), medical researcher Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) and biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) as they are taking off for a two-year trip traveling to and exploring Mars. Only a day after lift-off, an unconscious stowaway, launch plan engineer Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson), is discovered and neither he nor the crew can figure out how he got there.
While trying to accommodate their unexpected passenger, things quickly go from bad to worse with issues like lack of oxygen and radiation leakage.
Right away it’s hard for me to believe literally no one in this universe would notice a whole human body hidden near the back of a spaceship before departing. Not just the three astronauts on board, but the whole team back on Earth missed this.
Beyond this far-fetched beginning, Stowaway is very bleak and slowly paced with only 10 minutes of action near the end. It’s not exciting like The Martian or Gravity, or suspenseful like Interstellar.
Penna chooses to make this an eerie study of four crew members far from Earth trying to resolve their dangerous dilemmas as quickly as possible. The characters are okay, but not interesting enough to keep one’s attention for two hours.
There are a couple of highlights in Stowaway , however. After a series of goofy comedies and animated musicals like Jason Moore’s Pitch Perfect (2012) and Mike Mitchell’s Trolls (2016), Stowaway reminds us that Kendrick has range in dramas. It’s nice to see her talent at the front.
And Toni Collette sporting her natural Aussie accent in character was a nice addition as she’s usually a critical darling effecting many dialects.
Stowaway makes us wish Kendrick and Collette had stronger material to work with.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.