Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

Article updated: 2021.06.26

The Stowaway (2021) is a futuristic sci-fi film. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Stowaway, movie (2021)

Original title: Stowaway

Series: -

Setting: future Earth

Product type: Film, Genre: futuristic sci-fi, Style: sci-fi

Release: 2021.04.22

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Preferences: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises to spoilers, prefers establishing elements before referencing them

Watched: very recent (2021.06), first time

Rating: Weak (2- out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Bad (1 out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Stowaway, a futuristic sci-fi movie from 2021. It's about the crew of a spaceship finding a stowaway, and finding out there won't be enough air for all of them. The Stowaway film is boring, I only recommend it to avid fans of space travel movies.

If you'd like to be totally surprised by the Stowaway film, I don't recommend you to watch the trailer, because it starts with spoilers from the first moment on. Otherwise, apart from that first spoiler, I think it's safe to watch it if you don't mind minor spoilers.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Stowaway, movie (2021)

I've heard a couple of times about this movie, but I didn't know anything about it before deciding to watch it. I've heard it's a good sci-fi story, so I gave it a try. I haven't seen the trailer.

The Stowaway movie is about the crew of a spaceship finding a stowaway, and finding out there won't be enough air for all of them.

The story starts with a good premise, but then it starts to fall apart, and by the end the writer tries to keep the attention with parlour tricks. The story itself is consistent from beginning to end, although by the end the overly long scenes start to really stretch out to become boring. There were plenty of logical problems with the plot and the technical aspects of the plot.

The cinematography is okay, but nothing spectacular. The sets look nice, believable. There's no graphic violence in the film.

The characters are blanks, we practically don't get to know anything about their names and their jobs. The actors portrayed them fine.

The music (by Volker Bertelmann) is good, it fits the story.

Stowaway is a boring sci-fi movie, I don't really know who is the target audience the creators were aiming for. Intelligent people who are well-versed in science-fiction will feel insulted by the movie, while the rest won't enjoy the long stretches of nothing happening. This is otherwise a very good movie, with an awful script.

My experience

I wasn't satisfied with Stowaway (2021). I happen to like stories with well-thought, logical plots, and Stowaway lacked that.

Rating: Weak (2- out of 3 points). Stowaway looks good, but it lacks a story.

Enjoyment: Bad (1 out of 3 points). Stowaway is boring, I didn't like it.

Rewatchability: Probably. I think if you liked it for the first time, you liked it for the work of the actors or the look of the movie, so watching it again could probably be satisfying again.

Chance of watching it again: Nope.

Chance of watching a sequel: Unlikely, if it's done by the same creative team.

Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

Will you enjoy this?

If you like movies that depict space travel (2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar, Sunshine), you might like Stowaway.

If you prefer space action movies (Alien, Gravity, Interstellar, Life), you'll be probably bored, as there are not many action scenes in the Stowaway movie.

If you like stories about solving problems with scientific methods (Andromeda Strain, Martian), you might like Stowaway, although it's not a very clever film.

If you like slow, meditative space movies (2001: A Space Odyssey, Love (2011), Solaris), you might be interested in this, although Stowaway is not very thoughtful.

If you prefer space combat movies (Star Wars), you will be disappointed in Stowaway.

If you don't mind illogical elements in your movies, you can enjoy this.

If you are satisfied with good visuals, and don't mind the story, you might enjoy Stowaway.

Watching for plot points

I don't think there was anything in the Stowaway movie that would be interesting.

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Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

Review with spoilers - Stowaway, movie (2021)

I liked the concept of the Stowaway movie, but the execution was terribly bad.

Cover

The cover of the movie is okay, it doesn't say much, but it doesn't spoil the movie.

The trailer

The trailer starts with showing us there will be a stowaway on board, although I have to admit the title already spoils that. Otherwise, it's a fine trailer.

Promise of the first scene

A rocket leaves for Mars. I assume the story will be either about the journey, and they'll land at the end, or they get there quickly, and the story will be about exploring Mars. Of course the title implies there will be a stowaway, so I think we'll see the first version, about the journey.

Execution: Yeah, well, we got that, but we didn't even get to the end of the journey.

Plot summary / Synopsis

A spaceship (Hyperion) leaves for Mars. There's a captain (Toni Collette as Marina Barnett), a medic (Anna Kendrick as Zoe Levenson), and a botanic (Daniel Dae Kim as David Kim) on board. After they have left the point of no return, they find a technician (Shamier Anderson as Michael Adams), who was accidentally left on the spaceship. When they remove the technician, the life support gets damaged. They calculate that there won't be enough Oxygen for the four of them. The botanic comes up with a way to improve the life support with his algae farm, but that's still only enough for three people. The HQ recommends to terminate the technician. The medic begs for the life of the technician, so they get ten days. On the third day, the botanic gives a suicide cocktail to the technician, so he could finish the job. When the medic finds the technician contemplating on suicide, she convinces him to wait.

The medic and the botanic try to retrieve Oxygen from the rocket, but they fail. Meanwhile solar flares start, that would cause deadly radiation for those who'd go out. The medic volunteers to go out, and brings back an Oxygen cannister. When she is finished, she sits there watching into the solar flares, dying.

The setting

The setting is the Future of Earth.

They can create artificial gravity on their spaceships by rotating them around an axis.

There's already a Mars colony out there.

Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

The message of the story

I'm not sure there's one. "If you wait long enough, things might turn better"?

The movie puts up the question "is any life more precious than others?", but then there's no debate about it, they don't try to come up with answers, just solutions so they need not answer it.

The structure of the story

The scenes of the Stowaway film are mostly played in sequence, following the same storyline. There's one flashback in a rememberance scene.

It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure - beginning, action, resolution.

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Things I liked

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

I haven't seen any other works of the writers (Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison) or the director (Joe Penna). After Stowaway, I'm not sure I'm interested in their sci-fi works. Others might be okay though.

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Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

Problems with the story - Stowaway, movie (2021)

I didn't like the story. There were so many problems with the internal logic, that I couldn't enjoy the Stowaway film.

Problematic elements

Zero gravity: Five minutes after start, and there's already zero gravity? While they are still en route to the main spaceship, that's probably in geostationary orbit, waiting for them. There would be weightlessness on the spaceship before it starts, but that's not because the lack of gravity, but because it's in freefall.

Take-off: As sonic3974, an aerospace engineer points it out, in the film they use the transfer burn to get enough speed to reach Mars before they dock with the spaceship.  In order to do that, I assume they should have started the same transfer burn for the spaceship, before docking, so they would reach the same speed. Also, they mention reaching Max Q (maximum dynamic pressure) while already out of Earth atmosphere. They just probably used the phrase without understanding what it is.

The axis: It looks like the 500 meter axis is telescoping from the inside of the spaceship. I don't think this would be a useful way to store and assemble it, and in the movie, we later see that it's one continous rod, without any signs of telescoping. If it would be folded, or it would require assembly by hand, it would be more probable.

Artificial gravity: At first I didn't really understand it, the balance seemed off for me, because we didn't really see the spaceship in full. Later we fully see how it works, and that's fine. However, they could have spent a minute explaining it in the beginning.

The stowaway: It really takes a lot of effort to get that technician up there as a stowaway. This means nobody missed him when he didn't reported back finishing his work. In actuality, the ship wouldn't start without that. Then someone must have really put an effort to stuff his body into the panel, and screw him inside. Then they neglected to notice that he didn't report back after leaving the ship. The writers of the story really did everything so they could get that man on board.

The survival of the stowaway during the launch is also questionable. He was just inside a panel, among electronic gadgets. Let's say he managed to avoid being electrocuted, but when he was pressed into all those edges at 3G when they lift off, then 5G when they start the artificial gravity, and that would probably break things in him.

Sending photos: I assume there are self-diagnostic systems on board. While the photos might be slightly helpful, the HQ would already know what is the problem.

Life support: I find it unlikely that there wouldn't be some additional spare part for essential devices like the air support. They wouldn't send the spaceship for a two-year trip without redundant parts.

Algae: It's suspicious for me that every algae culture on one table suddenly die. Then next day the same happens on the other table. If they are connected, why are they in separate tanks? Isn't it more safe to use separate tanks exactly to prevent this from happening? When the first half died, couldn't the botanic just seed some of the healthy algae into those tanks to start them again? It could have been a better way to solve this, if the water was also contaminated, and the additives would cause problems with the algae. Otherwise it's actually pretty hard to kill them, once to start to thrive.

The climb: Even if they don't build a simple winch-based lift into the axis, they could have added a ladder to make the climb efficient.

Securing cable: When they leave the safety of the spaceship, they should immediately tether themselves to it by a securing cable. They shouldn't just climb anywhere without being attached to the ship.

Oxygen pressure: As sonic3974, an aerospace engineer points it out, if the liquid Oxygen tanks were at 500 psi as we see in the movie, it would probably explode when it's opened. Also, if the pressure would reach such a critical level, it would be automatically vented. I assume, in the atmosphere of Earth, the air pressure would be enough to keep that from happening, but in space, there's no outside pressure.

Sealing the Oxygen cables: When they start to refill the Oxygen tanks, there's some leaking. A lucky thing is that they should have duct tape, or they might even have expanding foam to fill the gaps.

Solar flare: It was almost comedic how the creators wanted to up the ante, with this technique, similar to Armageddon or The Core.

The Oxygen tanks: The Oxygen they've collected in those small tanks could be enough for one person for a couple of hours. It won't save them, unless they take dozens and dozens of turns.

The undecisive captain: When they all just stare at each other who should go on the resupply trip, it should have been easy, as there's a protocol for that. Although the captain could override it, the first one to go is the stowaway, then the botanic. So it wouldn't have been even a question whether to let the medic go. The scene just shows that the captain is a bad captain, who shouldn't have been sent up there.

Green plasma jets: Solar flares cause flashes on Earth bacause they interact with the atmosphere. There's no atmosphere in space, so it should be invisible.

The medic staring into sunshine: While it might be that she already got a deadly dose, it wasn't sure, so she could have gotten inside, instead of making sure she dies.

Ambiguous ending: When the story ends, we still don't know what will happen to the mission. They've sent the medic to get some supplies, but we don't know whether she was successful, and even if she was, that Oxygen tank looks very small to last too long.

Lack of personality: There's practically no information given about the characters. This might be intentional in the case of the stowaway, so the audience could place themselves in their stead, but for the rest of the crew it just shows the lack of imagination. (Even though we actually get a lot more info about the stowaway, so we'd feel sympathetic towards him, when he was about to get killed.) This is everything we get about them during the full runtime:

  • Captain: This is going to be her last ride. This is her second time on the trip to Mars.
  • Botanic: He went to Harvard. He is competitive. He has a wife. He feels ill from rotation. He intends to do botanical experiments on the trip.
  • Medic: She went to Yale. She was a beach guard, and she saved a drowning man. She won't give up on saving anybody.
  • Technician: He lives with his little sister, who is 9 years older. Their parents are dead. Their home burnt down when he was 10. He is studying to become an enginner.

Unnecessarily long scenes: There are some unnecessary shots, and most scenes are just too long. A lot of time is spent on padding. For example, in the middle of the story, we spend minutes watching the botanic, before he decides to act, then he gives the injection to the technician, then we spend minutes watching him contemplate on suicide, while the audience know it won't happen because it's the middle of the story. At that part, that's just boring. There was also an overly long unsuccessful supply run.

The lack of necessities: The fact that the crew lacks every useful tool they need in their journey, could be an interesting plot element, but it looks like the creators didn't want focus on that. I wish I had seen the story when the technician was intentionallly left there because his chief of staff fell asleep during his third shift, or when they didn't have duct tape because the janitor stole it, so he could finally repair the leaking pipes in the toilets. That would have made a lot more interesting story.

Possible solution: Sending another rocket after them with additional supplies. Yes, it could work, and they could send it from either Earth or Mars, but it would cost a lot. Probably more than it's worth for the HQ to save the technician.

Unanswered questions

What is the objective of the mission? If it's only to bring the algae to Mars, then all of them get back to Earth, they failed pretty early on. It's not to bring the medic and the botanic to the colony, because they will also come back. The whole thing is not very clear for me. At first, I thought there's no colony on Mars, and that's why they bring the algae, but later they mention there's already an established settlement there.

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Possibilities of improvement

  • Trim the scenes in the beginning, and up to the resupply trip.
  • Heavily cut the resupply trip, as most if it is just padding.
  • Add some stock footage at the end, showing a landing at Mars, so we'd know they were able to reach it.

How it could have been better?

Switch the role of the saviour to the botanic from the medic. It would be more interesting and unexpected.

Add personality to the characters. If the creator would come up with 20 facts for every character, and it would be included in a movie, it would be an immense joy for me.

Add believable twists, and not meteor showers, galactic radiation, robots gone mad, or the usual stuff.

If the story would have been about how does it change the lives of the astronauts that corporate space flights cut corners to save money, and that would have been the reason for all their problems, it could have been a tense and interesting film. They could really do some investigation about the technician, whether he is a corporate spy, or if he is a saboteur from a rival space corporation.

Start the flight from orbit. The astronauts wouldn't need to hurry, they could just get on the spaceship, that would be probably docked by a space station. They get up at the station, get to the spaceship, and start from there. The crew of the spaceship could be the one to check and maintain the spaceship before start, so there could still be a stowaway.

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Appendix - Stowaway, movie (2021): In defense of the movie

There are some reviews who criticise additional parts of the movie, that are actually realistic. I think this is because after a while you get tired of the illogical parts, and as the movie is really boring, you have time to nitpick every part.

Maintaining the artificial gravity: Some believe it would take too much energy to maintain the centrifugal artificial gravity. However, once you've set it up, there's nothing to slow it down, so it doesn't need additional energy, only if you want to slow it down or speed it up.

Stopping the mission: Some thought it would be a valid solution, if they would just stop the mission, and return to Earth. However, it just couldn't work in the setting. They don't seem to have enough fuel to stop and return. They probably only have enough fuel to stop, and they refuel at Mars to be able to return, or probably use the gravity of Mars to slingshot around the planet to return.

Tethering the cannister: Some people think the Oxygen cannister was untethered to the medic when it fell off the ship. As I recall, it was tethered, but the tether snapped when the medic fell to the ship.

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Stowaway, movie (2021) - Film review by KadmonStowaway, movie (2021)
image © Stowaway Productions & augenschein Production & RISE Filmproduktion (RISE)

Uses for the film - Stowaway, movie (2021)

Plot

  • There's a stowaway on a ship.
  • There's a problem with the supplies of a ship, and they won't be enough for everybody.
  • A man gets knocked off, and accidentally becomes a stowaway on a ship.

Scenes

  • Both the interior or the exterior scenes could be used to depict life on a near-future spaceship or a space station.

Scenarios - Role-playing game

 

Scenarios - Wargame

  • As a battle is going on, one (or both) of the sides require supplies, because the area is hazardous for them. In order to get those supplies, a team has to go through a treacherous trip and back. After a number of turns pass, if the units don't receive the supplies, some actions (running, charge) are prevented from them, or they receive negative modifiers to their actions. If the battle lasts for a long time, they need to make that trip multiple times.

Miniatures - 1/50-1/60 (28-32mm scale)

Astronauts: Modern human-sized human civilians.

Astronauts in space suit: Modern / futuristic large humanoid in full armour. The Primaris Inceptor suits for WH40K would look good, without the guns.

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Similar stories - Stowaway, movie (2021)

Short stories

Arthur C. Clarke: Breaking Strain (1949): After a catastrophe, the crew of a spaceship finds it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them.

Tom Godwin: The Cold Equations (1954): The crew of a spaceship finds a stowaway on the ship. They find it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them. The Cold Equations is a lot more interesting than Stowaway.

Movies

The Cold Equations (1996): The crew of a spaceship finds a stowaway on the ship. They find it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them. Based on the The Cold Equations short story.

The Stowaway (2014): The crew of a spaceship finds a stowaway on the ship. They find it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them. Based on the The Cold Equations short story.

TV series

Out of This World: The Cold Equations (1962): The crew of a spaceship finds a stowaway on the ship. They find it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them. Based on the The Cold Equations short story.

The Twilight Zone: The Cold Equations (1989): The crew of a spaceship finds a stowaway on the ship. They find it our there won't be enough air supply for all of them. Based on the The Cold Equations short story.

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Frequently asked questions - Stowaway, movie (2021)

Is the Stowaway film based on a book or comics?

No, legally Stowaway is not based on either books or comics. However, it has almost the exact plot of The Cold Equations from Tom Goodwin, with the interesting parts cut out of it.

Is there a post credit scene in Stowaway?

No, there's no post credit scene in Stowaway.

What happened to Zoe at the end of Stowaway?

We last see her getting sick due to radiation. We don't know anything else about her fate.

Why did Zoe die in Stowaway? / Did Zoe die in Stowaway?

Actually, we don't see her dying, so she might still make it.

Is Stowaway based on a true story?

No. As Stowaway takes place in the future, it would be pretty hard to make a story based on future events, unless we'd have a time machine.

Where can I watch Stowaway online? Is Stowaway available on Netflix? Is Stowaway on Amazon?

As of 2021.06.24, Stowaway is on Netflix, except for Canada. In Canada, you can find Stowaway on Amazon.

Why is Stowaway not on Netflix?

I assume you are in Canada. Netflix couldn't purchase the distribution rights to Stowaway in Canada. There, you can find the movie on Amazon.

Will there be a Stowaway 2?

I doubt it there would be a sequel to Stowaway, but if it makes enough money, I'm pretty sure they'll come up with a way to stuff another stowaway on the ship to be found.

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Resources - Stowaway, movie (2021)

Official

Stowaway: Official article.

Information

IMDB: Stowaway (2021): Database article.

WikiPedia: Stowaway (2021 film): Database article.

Letterboxd: Stowaway 2021: Database article.

Rotten Tomatoes: Stowaway 2021: Database article.

Creation

Entertainment Weekly: First look: Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette on going to space in Netflix’s Stowaway: Article about the making of the movie.§

Scott Manley: Why The New Movie "Stowaway" Uses A Very Clever Spacecraft Design To Go To Mars.: Video about the design of the spaceship.Ł

Reviews with no spoilers - Stowaway film (2021)

Jennifer Heaton (for Alternative Lens): STOWAWAY – an Alternative Lens review: Review article about the Stowaway movie with no spoilers.

Marianna Neal (for Impression Blend): 📺 April Movie + TV Series Wrap-Up | 2021: Review video about the Stowaway film with no spoilers.Ł

The Iceman (for Arrow in the Head): Stowaway (2021) - Movie Review: Review article about the Stowaway film with minor spoilers.

Reviews with no spoilers - Stowaway film (2021) - Hungarian

Török Dániel (for Artsomnia): Almost Good - Stowaway, 2021 – Netflix Review (in Hungarian): Review article about the Stowaway movie with no spoilers, in Hungarian.§

English version by Google Translate

Reviews with no spoilers - Stowaway film (2021) - Turkish

Gökhan Karagül (for Science Fiction Club): Moral Dilemma in Space: Stowaway (in Turkish): Review article about the Stowaway movie with no spoilers, in Turkish.

English version by Google Translate

Reviews with spoilers - Stowaway film (2021)

: Review article of the Stowaway movie, with spoilers. Includes a very detailed plot summary.¤

Analysis - Stowaway movie (2021)

: Analysis video, explaining the finale of Stowaway.¤

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Buying the product - Stowaway, movie (2021)

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Have you seen the Stowaway film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!

 

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