Uninvited passengers and secret hitchhikers in sci-fi films (whether intentional or unintentional) is a well-worn trope in pop culture offerings, often witnessed in TV shows and films like "Lost in Space," "The Astronauts" or "Jurassic Park: The Lost World."
Adding to the tradition, "Stowaway" is a new outer space thriller that begins streaming today on Netflix starring Toni Collette, Anna Kendrick, Shamier Anderson, and Daniel Dae Kim.
Written by Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison, and directed by Joe Penna ("Arctic"), the film follows the three-person crew of a spacecraft destined for Mars who discover an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. The surprising presence of this launch-plan engineer immediately puts the rest of the Mars-bound team in peril due to the limitations of their craft's life support system for their two-year, round-trip trek to the Red Planet. Fateful decisions must soon be made to guarantee survival of the mission and its astronauts before the oxygen ends.
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To its credit, this serious German-American production manages to detour around some of the more cliché plot contrivances in similar fare and instead infuses the story with genuine scenes of courage, heroism, and sacrifice under dire circumstances in an inhospitable environment.
"We wanted this film to be as close to reality as possible," Penna said in a Netflix statement. "We talked to around twenty different experts — aerospace engineers, astronauts, space shuttle commanders, algae experts, launch engineers, solar radiation researchers, and medical professionals. We spoke to as many people as possible to create a story that takes place in a setting that will very closely resemble what this mission will truly be one day."
Penna's feature is a satisfying cinematic odyssey punctuated by solid performances from the cast and adorned with authentic-looking sets and special effects worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Special accolades go out to Academy Award-nominated composer Volker Bertelmann ("Lion") for the film’s stirring musical score.
"Stowaway" is currently available on Netflix.