In space, no one can hear you scream for oxygen — which is the perfect slogan for Netflix’s new film Stowaway.
The film, which stars Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim, and breakout actor Shamier Anderson, involves astronauts trying to solve the dilemma of a spacecraft losing oxygen moment-to-moment. Thus, throwing four intelligent human beings in a complex game of morals and scientific wits before their air supply runs empty.
Similar to The Martian, Stowaway demands the characters use science to survive an impossible problem.
Does Stowaway deliver on this premise? Here is our full review of the latest sci-fi drama on Netflix.
The movie wastes zero time throwing us into the abyss of space. There are no introductions to who these people are on earth, what their families are like, or if something of merit happened before take-off. The characters feel real starting out like they already existed before launch.
Toni Collette’s Marina is the crew leader that aims to begin trying to convert Mars into a habitable planet. In the film, she leads two other astronauts, David (played by Kim), who appears to be a botanist, and Zoe (Kendrick), who is the medical researcher on board.
But as the three of them get settled into space, a fourth passenger is found on the ship. This “stowaway” Michael (Anderson) unintentionally became caught in the mechanics of the ship, and the area of his trappings happen to be near a carbon dioxide scrubber, placing the crew in a countdown for their survival.
Due to this, it is conveyed that the ship can only hold so much oxygen for four crewmembers. And that is when the film poses a moral question. Would you end one life to save a few?
In the thick of this predicament, the character motivations will either work or be entirely unbelievable for some. And at times, it can borderline on being somewhat unrealistic.
The mission is sent by an organization known as Hyperion, which is inferred to be the equivalent of NASA or SpaceX. When ground control is made aware of the oxygen to person ratio, instead of solving a vastly complex issue, ending one of their lives is swiftly placed on the table.
And the suggestion does not feel completely earned because the crew did not have their Apollo 13 moment. In that pivotal moment, the crew has to do the impossible and build or fix something from random parts of the ship. Here, option A goes wrong, and there is no mindblowing scientific B or C plan to truly make the whole thing feel hopeless when all of the ideas fail.
For such a magnificent mission, it seems like moving straight to killing crew members, in general, would not be the best PR strategy. And a cover-up is never implied or hinted at.
The conversations surrounding these characters about measuring life against lives are always interesting ones, depending on the execution. Just with the way Stowaway handles them, it feels cold.
Realism and motivations aside, Stowaway does possess some remarkably tense moments. Director Joe Penna does two things incredibly well with this movie. One, showing us the rules of how devices are used to survive space work, and two, executing them confidently during moments of tense drama and action. This is especially true for the latter half of the film. Key sequences in the climax will truly have viewers holding their breath.
On top of this, the film has a solid cast. Toni Collette is always great in everything, and that is no different here. Anna Kendrick’s role of Zoe may not be as memorable as her endearing performance in Up In The Air, but Kendrick is solidly placed as the voice of reason throughout this film.
Daniel Dae Kim is also given a lot of room to flex in this film. His performance of David is frustrating but in all the right ways. Like a Vulcan in Star Trek, he is a man of pure logic to a fault, and oftentimes his focus on science clouds his empathy.
But the breakout star undoubtedly is Shamier Anderson as Michael. His role and performance ground the morality struggle in a much-needed vulnerability. More so because he is the most likable person on the ship and his curiousness about everything is undoubtedly infectious.
Stowaway is not a perfect film by any means. The film hinges on moral questions and conversations about the value of life. And the path to how these questions are asked may feel flimsy and unearned.
That said, the cast gives the material their all and manages to make us care about their ability to breathe. This is further complemented by a climax that will have viewers on edge. It’s not as suspenseful as Gravity — but it does not need to be.
All this said, if viewers are looking for a complex realistic character study on how humans weigh the importance of one’s life over another, there’s a lot to be desired with Stowaway.
Stay for the performers, the attention to detail with space, and the suspenseful climax — not the philosophy.
Stowaway is now streaming on Netflix.