Despite its stellar cast and interesting plot, Henry Hood finds there are too many flaws in Netflix’s latest sci-fi adventure
Stowaway fulfils the criteria of a lockdown-made Netflix Original film. Made up of a small cast of just four actors on a small, if not well-made set, it seems this film was made in the parameters of a global pandemic.
The premise of the film is simple, but effective. A space crew sets off sometime in the near-future from now on an expedition to Mars, and a problem occurs once they’re trapped in space. A stowaway is found on the ship, and the crew have to deal with suddenly having a new member on board.
Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae-Kim both play their parts excellently as crewmates whose personalities clash on board. One is an empathetic doctor whereas the other is a rational, calculated scientist. These opposing standpoints brilliantly play off each other, especially when the crew has to decide what to do about the lack of oxygen which cannot accommodate the stowaway.
While the film seems simple enough, it certainly has glaring issues which are impossible to ignore. Despite its title, little is ever done to actually explain how the stowaway (Shamier Anderson) ends up on a space shuttle without remembering. All we find out is that he’s an engineer who aspires to one day go to space too, and he has a sister at home who he is bonded to through family trauma. So much could have been done with Anderson’s character, perhaps revealing he had purposely hid himself on board to fulfil his dreams of researching in space, or revealing some revenge plot fuelled by his hatred for the company he works for. Instead, the plot seems to gloss over how or why he ended up on a spacecraft, and altogether forgets him in the last quarter of the film when the crew have to traverse the outside of the spacecraft in search of oxygen.
the plot has too many holes for this film to ever become a cult-classic in the sci-fi genre, or be memorable beyond being a pandemic movie
Many initial reactions labelled it as lazy scripting, or a potential last-minute change in the script that had already been chopped and changed. But assuming the plot is more contrived than many dismiss it as, there is perhaps a ‘clever’ reading of the story. For much of the film, the audience is kept in the dark about information, whether that’s the ground team’s radio chatter that we have to decipher from the crew’s reactions, or the suspension of belief in how the spinning pseudo-gravity system on board actually works. Instead, we are trapped in the crew’s world, stuck in space and focusing more on how the crew will survive instead of analysing the who, what, how or why of any situation.
Whether it’s intentional or not, we end up sharing the same view as the crew trapped in the cabin and only focusing on survival. Science and analysis is removed from the equation and reserved for the illusive ground-team, while those in space have to battle with the ethics of sacrificing the stowaway to save the rest of the crew; it’s the only thing they actually have control over. It seems there’s no point hounding the stowaway for answers since he’s concussed, confused, and stuck with them for the next two years.
Still, with all this in mind, it seems a far stretch to accommodate this theory while watching the film. Yes, Stowaway is a well acted and well shot; but the plot has too many holes for this film to ever become a cult-classic in the sci-fi genre, or be memorable beyond being a pandemic movie.
If you’re bored and want to watch a film, it’s hardly a waste of your time. But if you’re looking for anything other than an entertaining way to fill two hours, you might be better off watching Gravity, The Martian, or First Man, all of which are films set in space that do a better job.