Director Joe Penna’s expedition to Mars in the 2021 film Stowaway is neither as ambitious nor as grand as those mentioned above. Instead, it takes place in the rather claustrophobic confines of the Kingfisher, which is targeting a colony on Mars. The cast is threadbare, but solid: Anna Kendrick as medical researcher Zoe, Toni Collette as the ship’s commander Marina, and Daniel Dae Kim as biologist David. Toni Marina is confident and stable and Daniel’s David stoic but gentle, but Anna steals the frame as the lovable space rookie, Zoe.
The crux of the film’s story is a moral dilemma involving Kingfisher’s incidental stowaway and owner: Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson), whom the crew finds hiding and injured in a compartment of the ship. While caring for him until he recovers, they find that they don’t have enough oxygen for four people. It soon becomes clear that one person (and that person is Michael, of course) has to die for the other three to live.
Each of the characters deals with the ethical dilemma in their own way: Marina as the sensible leader and David as the pragmatic scientist, who understand that the success of their mission (which involves making Mars fit for human habitation), the Mankind’s fate, as well as their own lives, depends on removing Michael from the equation. On the other hand, Michael is the helpless person who knows he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Zoe the idealist who will continue to search for alternative sources of oxygen instead of letting this man die.
Visually, there aren’t many flaws in the movie and the scenes that unfold in space, especially when we finally leave the Kingfisher at some point in the second half, are well done. It’s the pacing that’s a disappointment, and labeling it a thriller might be an overstatement. The movie isn’t exactly on the edge of its seat until its end, and it snakes around a bit before making its point. However, among his strengths are his characters, who are not a mold and have great chemistry. In fact, they’re all endearing in their own way (even Michael, though his part is a bit undercooked), which is what makes the story’s haunting conclusion stick with you.