Warning: contains spoilers
Yet another movie about a space mission gone wrong is now on Netflix. Stowaway is a recently-released movie about a three-person mission to Mars that went haywire when the crewmates found an unknown passenger onboard. I was initially excited to watch this movie because I thought it would be a suspenseful but well-told story, and while I was correct in this regard, it fell flat of what it could have been.
Stowaway was written and directed by duo Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison, who previously worked together on another suspenseful film, Arctic. The opening scene of Stowaway starts off like almost every movie about space: with a countdown to liftoff and shots of the astronauts as they prepare for this long, arduous journey. Instead of focusing on the scenery outside of the space shuttle while it launched, the scene showed the astronauts’ facial expressions, helping to introduce the audience to the main characters in this movie. The jolting camera shots along with the aggressive colors in this scene (think bright orange spacesuits) make everything feel chaotic while showing how harsh this reality can be. The addition of quiet and serene music after the astronauts pass through the atmosphere makes up for the previous shaky and confusing scene.
This tranquil period is quickly punctured when the commander of the mission, Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), finds an unconscious man in the space shuttle — this man turns out to be Michael, a launch support engineer. Because of his appearance on the space shuttle, there is not enough oxygen and everyone is in grave danger. Just as in so many other movies about space, the crew members–medical researcher Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) and biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim)–must now figure out a way to save themselves.
Once I got to this part of Stowaway I had a few assumptions about how the movie would turn out: they would have a triumph but then something terrible would ruin everything, they would persevere but it would end poorly, or maybe they would pull through and the space mission would be successful. I ended up being correct; the astronauts had a small triumph before a solar storm ruined their chances of getting more oxygen. Everything seemed predictable, and while I was so ready for a plot twist that would make the movie worth watching, that plot twist never came.
Stowaway ends with a shot of Zoe looking off into the distance in space waiting for her imminent death, and then pans out to darkness. I was not expecting the movie to end this way and always thought that even though everything was going horribly wrong, the movie would still end with some type of closure. The writers tried to make the ending seem hopeful by repeating Zoe’s voiceover on why she wanted to apply for the space mission program (to “give her life meaning”). It works to some extent but still leaves the audience wishing for a better ending and a better story. I was left staring at my computer screen wondering what I had just spent the last 116 minutes of my life watching, unsure what exactly I got out of it. To me, every movie has the opportunity to inspire or at the very least make the audience feel some type of emotion. Stowaway came close to doing that but ultimately missed its chance to do so much more.