Directed by: #JoePenna
Netflix’s Stowaway concentrates its focus on a slow-burning story elapsing almost two hours, simmering and sparking with subtlety. It’s a film that plays with the Sci-Fi genre in a more grounded and simplistic way; leaning into scenes filled with dialogue that encapsulate meaning and character, developing the people onboard this doomed-to-fail mission. A harsh reality is embedded at the midsection, and the four silently troubled crew persons must collectively make a string of difficult decisions.
Stowaway presents delicate, confined storytelling inside a Hollywood-budget space drama. It features stunning cinematography that captures every inch of the spaceship with immaculate detail; we’re shown through the rooms in the first act by way of character introductions, which then brings us to a meeting with the secret passenger somehow “missed” in checks pre-launch. If you can get past this slightly barbaric inspection error (a vital part of space travel), there’s some enjoyment to be found in the discussions and problem-solving included in Stowaway. Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson and Toni Collette are supporting this story with everything they’ve got. They really put the work in. Films that focus mostly on dialogue require skill in understanding and delivery and it’s very clear that these four actors have what it takes.
Given its simplistic nature and fairly quiet aura, the film places some importance on the music score. Volker Bertelmann uses traditional synth layers to create tension underneath the few big set pieces in the film, and otherwise underscores dialogue scenes with very little going on musically. Though played safe, this score supports Stowaway’s effort to provide an intimate but equally epic piece of entertainment. The aforementioned sets look great and the external of the ship that we’re allowed to explore in the third act is kept to a minimalistic level. This approach makes a situation that would otherwise seem too “normal” for a film, more thrilling. Penna’s direction throughout is calm and collected; his eye for character interaction is fantastic. It seems as if he likes to explore the many possible scenarios of humans in danger, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be letting up on that notion any time soon.
Stowaway is one of many films hitting Netflix this year, so you’re probably wondering if it’s worth checking out. Given its easy-to-digest diegesis and strong performances, it’s certainly worth your time if you’re willing to sit back and be a little more generous with criticism. It isn’t by any means perfect, and the story does seem to just... end. But it has a beautiful atmosphere, solid sound design and mixing, and a pretty relatable through line of sacrifice that makes it at least worth your time on a quiet Sunday evening.
Stowaway is now streaming on Netflix.