Everything seems to be going well for the three-person crew of a ship on a two-year voyage to Mars and back. For her very last mission, commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) has been tasked with transporting biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) and medical researcher Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) to their new base in Mars where they are expected to conduct some valuable research.
Things take a turn for the unexpected when the crew discovers an interloper onboard a few hours after launch. The man in question is Michael (Shamier Anderson), a launch support technician who found himself trapped inside the ship just before take off.
Stowaway, a Netflix produced space thriller from writer-director Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison, tells the story of this crew who soon face an impossible choice.
Injured and visibly shaken by his ordeal, Michael begs the commander to turn the ship around and take him back home where he is the sole guardian for his younger sister, but soon starts to accept that he is onboard for the long haul. On closer inspection, it transpires that Michael had accidentally damaged the ship’s vital carbon dioxide scrubber. With oxygen levels depleted and zero probability of making it back to Earth as a foursome, a decision must be made about what to do with Michael, but not everyone is onboard with what is being suggested.
Penna and Morrison present a deeply compelling, believable and handsomely acted thriller. With some nail-biting dramatic moments and an inspired “what if” idea, Stowaway manages to avoid the pitfalls that similarly themed productions have suffered from. And while the obligatory suspenseful spacewalks are perhaps less impressive than those in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity or more recently The Midnight Sky, there is still a commendable philosophical thread running through the film’s narrative that makes up for any other shortcomings.
Questions about sacrifice and the value of a life are asked, but even though they are never fully answered, there is a sense that Penna and Morrison have examined the film’s brilliantly nuanced premise from every possible angle and have in turn given us an inspired narrative that is bound to provoke discussion.
The film also manages to ask some pertinent questions around the value of scientific progress and whether it is important to pursue research to the detriment of human life. Furthermore, we are asked to put a value on an existence that could be regarded as lesser from a scientific point of view, leaving us to decide who has the right to be saved and whether any human is, in fact, disposable.
Overall, Stowaway is low-paced and undeniably claustrophobic, but at the heart of it, there is a genuinely intriguing philosophical idea that is not only engaging, but also fantastically thought out.
Stowaway is available now on Netflix.
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