'Stowaway' looks good. There are some great ideas here. The issue I think I have is that the narrative includes too many for the unfolding drama to feel believable.
The production and set design is outstanding. MTS-42 looks great, interior and exterior alike. The inside perhaps looks more spacious than reflects real vessels, but that's an aspect we can chalk up to movie magic, if not simply the necessities of filming. I'm a big fan of Volker Bertelmann's score, employing stirring, swelling strings and sparse piano to impart the grandeur of space, and the growing suspense of the scenario.
The cast is small but impressive in its assemblage, and excellent in their craft. Toni Collette is consistently underappreciated, and Daniel Dae Kim is solid. It feels strange to see Shamier Anderson here in a dramatic role compared to the more action-oriented stylings of 'Wynonna Earp,' but he's clearly capable. At least to me, Anna Kendrick is the greatest surprise of all; I feel like I had no idea who she was for the longest time, but all of a sudden she's everywhere, and I'm pleased with her performance here.
Maybe someone more knowledgeable about engineering or space missions will find more to criticize, but to my senses everything about 'Stowaway' looks and sounds good. Yet the screenplay just feels too busy to truly work, in the course of events generally and in the small details that build it all up. Even at the most basic root idea - it's a rather large leap to suspend our disbelief that a mission could launch with another individual on board, without anyone's knowledge. Every mounting problem that the crew faces thereafter only further chips away at the artificial credulity that storytellers require of their audience. Where 'Stowaway' could have been a relatively simple yet impactful tale of science fiction, instead it becomes a giant exploration of "Okay, but WHAT IF..." requiring one presupposition on top of another. As an exercise of our imagination it's more strenuous than it is invigorating.
It's not all bad. For all the accumulating urgency that raises my skepticism, the character drama is engrossing, and I enjoy everyone's performances. Increasingly far-fetched as the tale becomes, there are thrills nonetheless along the way, even despite a few lapses in writing and judgment that defy even the most rudimentary scientific knowledge. There are some eye-catching shots arranged here, too. Honestly, I wanted to like this more than I did.
The ending, for better and for worse, kind of summarizes all of 'Stowaway' in a nutshell by being quite a mixed bag. Even given so little to do in the final moments, I think the cast does well. I once more appreciate Bertelmann's score, emphasizing this last emotional beat of the film. And the very last shot, uncomplicated as it is, is the perfect note to close on. It's regrettable that this conclusion is marred by special effects to needlessly visualize something we wouldn't see in actuality, and by a voiceover that is 100% extraneous, and unwanted.
I have to say I'm a little disappointed. The initial concept is a bit dubious, but I'm willing to take my suspension of disbelief pretty far, and give allowances for a number of storytelling and film-making idiosyncrasies. I was looking forward to watching 'Stowaway,' and in the end I found it slightly wanting. It's worth watching, in my opinion, but temper your expectations.
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