Stowaway

This excellent space drama from Netflix is so well made that it had me enthralled from beginning until almost the end.

I have a habit of pressing on movies without knowing anything about them. I saw that Stowaway was new to Netflix. I saw Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim were in it. I hit play. I knew nothing else about the movie. I love doing it because the movie can take me on it’s journey without worrying about the press surrounding it, the spoilers circling the internet, or the buzz built around its quality. Stowaway really captured me and took me on a journey. Because I knew nothing about it every plot point was a surprise and every new development was that much more impactful. I was totally into it. I felt the ending was a letdown, but getting there was a great movie experience. If that’s all you need to check it out stop reading and check it out. If you want more context read on.

The film opens with a shuttle launch. The camera remains firmly inside the cockpit putting us in the perspective of the astronauts. We feel how jarring, shaky, and scary the launch is right alongside our trio of astronauts. They are Zoe played by Anna Kendrick. David a biologist played by Daniel Dae Kim. And Marina the ships commander played by the ever wonderful Toni Collette.

From the opening moments the camera puts us in the ship with the crew. The way the camera steadily moves through the ship gives us a feeling of being on board with them. We are a part of this crew. We are a part of this journey.

Things go pretty well through the first day or so until Marina sees what looks like blood dripping from the ceiling. She opens the ceiling compartment and an injured man falls out. This is Michael played by Shamier Anderson. He is a technician who ended up an accidental stowaway.

His presence creates all kinds of problems. The ship was built on the slightest of margins. It was planned to the exact detail for three people. A fourth throws everything off including how much air they’re going to have.

The movie doesn’t revolve into an action thriller. It has a lot more on its mind than base cliches. It is an existential drama looking at life and meaning. It gives us characters we like and puts them through the hardest decisions anyone could be asked to make.

The acting is stellar. The performances hit every right note. From confrontations with each other to moments of silent anguish these actors bring their A game. It’s wholly convincing.

One of the most interesting decisions was to never show or hear from anyone outside the ship. They make a lot of calls to mission control and to family on earth, but we never see them or hear their voices. This creates a sense of palpable isolation. These people are alone. No one is coming to save us.

My issue is the ending. It felt contrived. A challenge in thrown at our crew that feels unearned and out of left field. This challenge results in an ending that doesn’t feel earned. I just wanted more out of the ending. I wanted more narrative motivation for how the story plays out. I wanted the ending to have a stronger thematic message. I wanted it to mean more. Maybe that’s what the filmmakers were going for, but if that’s the case I didn’t like it.

For the quality of the filmmaking and storytelling I give this one a solid grade. For the ending I have to knock it down a peg because it didn’t work for me. It’s almost a home run. I definitely think it’s worth watching. There’s so much good here.

It’s my cup of tea. B+

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