Breathing space

STOWAWAY (12, 117 minutes)

More morality tale than sci-fi adventure, this claustrophobic ensemble piece sees a mission to Mars placed at risk when an unconscious launch pad technician is found on board.

With only enough life support for the three crew, all of them face carbon dioxide poisoning months before reaching their destination. Unless…

No aliens, monsters, villains or viruses – just four people on a spaceship with time and air running out.

It’s the sort of premise that could fit on the back of an envelope or a short stop diner napkin.

So the film rests, not on spectacle or CGI wizardry, but purely on the performances of the four cast members as intrinsically decent human beings faced with how they can survive without at least one of them having to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

This is no star vehicle, although Anna Kendrick brings a charm to everything she turns her hand to, and Toni Collette reminds us that there’s a lot more to her skills than looking horrified to camera as one of her kids is possessed or threatened by a demon as veteran mission commander Marina Barnett.

The title itself is misleading as so-called stowaway Michael (played by TV’s Wynonna Earp favourite Shamier Anderson) is there by pure accident (albeit a highly unlikely one given the checks made for space flight), not by design.

Key moments only become apparent in hindsight, such as a scene where Michael assists scientist David (Daniel Dae Kim) who conducts experiments that he hopes will enable crops grown on Mars, while listening to 1960s experimental jazz, an allegory for the story unfolding on board their craft.

Apart from the last 10 minutes or so, director and screenwriter Joe Penna concentrates on the humanity of the situation rather than the location of the story and while his restrained direction delves into issues such as conscience and forgiveness with pragmatism rather than any overblown bombast, I do think that maybe one more draft and maybe a fresh pair of eyes on the screenplay could have sharpened things up a little.

Stowaway is available to view now on Netflix.

RATING: 6/10


Mick Ferris

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