Stowaway

Director: Joe Penna

Actors: Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim

Release Date: Thursday 22nd April 2021

Genre(s): Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Running time: 116 minutes

Though it has some smart visuals and it's obviously working miracles on a tight budget, 'Stowaway' ends up being just OK rather than anything special.

As three astronauts (Toni Colette, Daniel Dae Kim, and Anna Kendrick) set off on a research mission towards Mars, they discover an engineer (Shamier Anderson) has unintentionally stowed away aboard their spaceship and is now jeopardising not only their mission, but their very lives.

It's difficult to make something fresh and original out of movies set in space. To make something truly unique, you have to go to some pretty out-there places (no pun intended). Claire Denis' excellent 'High Life', as an example, took in all sorts of themes and made for highly original viewing. 'The Martian' was slick and loaded up with good humour from its cast, and had Ridley Scott firing on all cylinders for maximum effect. 'Gravity' had size and scale unlike anything seen before and made for some incredible visuals.

'Stowaway', though it has an intriguing premise, has none of these things going for it. The size and scale are far more intimate, the humour and slickness aren't all that prevalent, and the themes and concepts it's dealing with aren't all that fresh. As soon as the crew discover the titular stowaway, it's not hard to guess where it's going to go and eventually end up. Indeed, it signposts the whole thing pretty clearly in a quiet beat between Anna Kendrick and Shamier Anderson.

For such a diverse cast, 'Stowaway' doesn't really give any of them any kind of space (again, no pun intended) to roam. Very often, they're moving from scene to scene, problem to problem, and doing little in the way of communicating their thoughts or feelings with the audience. You might think that it's the sort of thing where cold, walled-off science types can't grasp the emotional or human choices they're making, but it just doesn't get there. Instead, it slips away and goes into plodding the story forward than sitting with anything.

Director Joe Penna covered similar themes of survival in 2018's 'Arctic', where Mads Mikkelsen was stranded in - you guessed it, not the Bahamas - and has to figure out if he's going to stay in his makeshift camp or embark on a perilous journey. With that in mind, 'Stowaway' feels like it's transplanting the same ideas and moving them into space. It works well, but you're never really quite blown away by any of it and the atonal piano score and the bland structure don't give it any kind of lift. The ensemble cast all give solid, if conventional, performances, yet there are a few gaping inconsistencies in the story that don't really help their position. Not only that, if you're trying to out-guess the story halfway through, you're in trouble.

Though it has some smart visuals and it's obviously working miracles on a tight budget, 'Stowaway' ends up being just okay rather than anything special.

'Stowaway' is streaming now on Netflix.