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Stowaway (2021) - Movie Review

Stowaway (2021) - Movie Review
7 10

PLOT: On a manned mission to Mars, three crew members become four when an accidental stowaway is discovered. When an incident causes the spaceship's life support systems to sh*t the bed, an extra body aboard becomes the difference between life and death.

LOWDOWN: Though something as big as Netflix is bound to run the gamut in terms of output quality, I must say that when they hit, they f*cking hit! I'm always down to give a Netflix original a chance because of entries like Horse Girl, Apostle, Gerald's Game, and The Ritual (among others). With Stowaway (WATCH IT HERE), we get a slow burn deep space thriller that may not be the best of the best, but I ended up digging this one a lot more than I thought I would. So grab some vodka, mix it with some Tang and let us discuss Stowaway.

We open with the launch, in what may be the most realistic take-off I've seen in a while, with four minutes of intense shaking and engrossing sound design, set around the physical toll it takes to get into orbit. Director/writer Joe Penna gives us a grounded and practical opening that sets up the crew and their simple mission of eventually colonizing Mars. With such a small ship, we get introduced to our tiny yet capable team. Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) is the spunky Yale medical researcher whose optimism and energy give the claustrophobic setting a sense of home. At the same time, David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) is her playful Harvard rival and pragmatic biologist who tends to keep emotion out of his daily routine. 

Together, they must update Mission Control and keep the expedition top of mind. Everything and everyone goes through the ship's commander, Marina Barnett (Toni Collette). Collette should have won an Oscar by now, and it's a damn shame that she hasn't. As the commander, she keeps a level head, and though Collette doesn't get as much to do as in Hereditary, Stowaway proves once again that she is one of the best damn actresses of our generation. Commander Barnett is the rug that ties this room together and plays tough yet vulnerable like a f*cking champ.

Once the accidental stowaway Michael (Shamier Anderson) gets discovered, we learn that his addition has damaged a vital life support system causing the oxygen in the ship to start running out. We don't get a great answer for how Michael survived or really how he could pass out inside the ship without being found, but I like how out of his element Michael is and how lost Anderson plays him. As a character that sets off the dramatic story arc, he could have easily been annoying or forced, yet Michael's backstory gives him a gentle and heroic purpose. Shamier Anderson plays the everyman with a big heart who has been given an opportunity of a lifetime, even if it is by accident.

I can't say much about the third act when things go from bad to f*cked except that the decisions made that develop the plot is grounded and never forced or out of place. When difficult choices are made, Toni Collette owns it and just emotes every once of the soul into Barnett. With oxygen running out, she needs to do the unthinkable, and you can see the trauma of the situation in her eyes alone. When things are at their darkest, Stowaway is at its best. Now, where things weaken is near the very end. The story does reach its natural conclusion, yet I feel like the last fifteen minutes are a bit rushed. With such an emotional story about space exploration and the human experience, the later part should have taken time to breathe a bit. You know, have a drink and let us soak it in. Another issue is how the film brushes off Michael. How did he stay aboard the launch without any supervisor checking on his whereabouts? And how did he survive at all? Not sure, folks. Not sure.

GORE: No blood here. Besides a few scratches and cuts, Stowaway doesn't dive into the blood and gore.

BOTTOM LINE: Stowaway is a character study about four distinct people who need to work and grow together to survive. It isn't a unique story but surrounds itself with excellent actors who bring a sense of heart and soul to the tale. How well you connect and bond with these characters will determine how well you connect with everything else. For me, it was a good time that played with my heartstrings more than I expected.

   STOWAWAY Releases on Netflix on April 22, 2021

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