Anna Kendrick, Shamier Anderson, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim
A stowaway on a mission to Mars sets off a series of unintended consequences.
On a mission headed to Mars, an unintended stowaway accidentally causes severe damage to the spaceship’s life support systems. Facing dwindling resources and a potentially fatal outcome, the crew is forced to make an impossible decision.
Stowaway is a sci-fi thriller written by Ryan Morrison and Joe Penna, with the latter also helming the film. The film focuses on three astronauts, commander Marina Barnett, medical researcher Zoe Levenson, and biologist David Kim, launching off on a two-year mission to Mars. The launch goes smoothly and while they begin prepping for the journey ahead, Marina finds a passed out stowaway in Michael Adams, a launch support engineer who inadvertently got trapped on the shuttle just before takeoff. With not enough fuel to turn back to Earth and not enough oxygen for them all to get to Mars, hard decisions have to be made among the small crew.
With its concept, the film strikes some interesting philosophical debates amongst the crew, as their first consensus as to who should make the sacrifice is the one that accidentally ended up on the mission: Michael. While David makes his argument that Michael should know and make the sacrifice himself, Zoe’s instinctively with her medical background, looks to exhaust every possible option that would mean no sacrifice would be needed, no matter how impossible it may seem. It also creates a question that even asks the audience what they would do if they were in the predicament the characters are in, creating stakes that will have the audience invested in seeing the film through to the end credits. The production design, set decoration and art direction from Marco Bittner Rosser, Christiane Krumwiede and Uwe Stanik, is well done in creating the cramped setting the crew find themselves in, with some solid cinematography work by Klemens Becker inside and outside the ship. The film is well directed by Joe Penna, particularly in how he shoots a finale sequence that cranks up the tension, with some good film editing work by Ryan Morrison. The performances among the ensemble help to elevate the material. Shamier Anderson gives a good performance as Michael Adams, particularly when he’s in shock at his new surroundings and coming to terms with his situation, and especially informed of the dread the crew face in trying to get to Mars. I’m happy to see Daniel Dae Kim be given a substantial role in a film and I enjoyed his performance as David Kim, who tries to be logical with their situation but is he willing to give up his life’s work in an attempt to save a life, even though the odds are stacked against them? Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette are also good in their roles, with Kendrick as Zoe being adamant that no-one has to die so the rest can live.
Unfortunately with such an interesting concept, the film feels too restrained for its own good and with a runtime of almost two hours, you really start to feel the runtime before the crew even learn of the conundrum that they will have to face, especially when it feels like we’re not given much to care for the characters. The film makes a choice in being entirely focused on the crew in space, be it in and outside the ship. So when commander Marina Barnett speaks with command about their predicament, it’s mostly inaudible and we only catch up to what’s being said in how she reacts or elaborates on what is said in her responses. Then with Michael Adams, he initially panics when he wakes up to find himself in space, fearing for his younger sister’s wellbeing as he’s her sole guardian, but his fears are laid to rest when Marina informs him that command (Hyperion) are taking care of her and outside of leaving voice/video memos to send back for her to hear/see, it still feels there’s a disconnect of giving these scenes emotional weight to have me care for these characters. The film also has a bleak tone to it which doesn’t technically help with the films runtime, as we find the crew doing everything they can to create possible solutions for their plight and seemingly hitting a dead-end at every turn. The particular question of how Michael managed to accidentally be left on the ship and discovered in the position he was when they were in space is never fully addressed and leaves it on a unsatisfactory note, with the final scene of the film feeling pretty anti-climatic.
While the performances in Stowaway are good, the story feels too restrained and overlong to have me emotionally invested by the final act.