By Mason Kupiainen Netflix has been one of the best distributors when it comes to television. Many of the most talked-about series usually are originals from the streaming giant. However, Netflix does not have the same track record of quality when it comes to their original films. They release a few gems now and then, including films like The Trial of the Chicago 7, Hillbilly Elegy, The Old Guard, and The Devil All the Time. Like Project Power or Thunder Force, many of their high-profile films usually turn out to be some of the worst films of the year. However, Stowaway walks the line by being a mixture of excellent and poor filmmaking. Stowaway follows a three-person crew on a two-year mission to Mars. On the ship, they discover an accidental stowaway and cannot turn back around to Earth. After his discovery, the ship’s commander learns that their supplies and resources are only suited for three people, their morals begin to be tested. Lackluster characters Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette, the two leads for the film, are typically excellent other roles. Whether or not it was the writing or their performances, probably a mixture of the two, their characters were uninteresting. Rounding this short cast, Shamier Anderson and Daniel Dae Kim seem like great performers, but their characters lack substance. They are the only two characters given a backstory, but they still were unable to be compelling. The four were unable to elevate the material they were given and make the characters enjoyable through their performances. Their characters were not terrible, but it was difficult to find a reason to latch on to any of them. Since only two of the characters were given the bare minimum for their backstories, it was difficult to truly fear for them during the tense moments. Part of the reason why these characters were flat was the dialogue. Even though the movie is almost two hours, there are not many moments where they’re allowed to talk about themselves. The few moments they were given were dull and developed the characters poorly. Whenever the characters are discussing the situation at hand, the dialogue here is boring as well. It fails to add suspense or reflect the character's development. Beautiful filmmaking The film shines with the work done behind the camera. Since most of the film takes place within close confinements, it was great to see the filmmakers get creative with what they had to work with. The camera work felt very smooth, with many memorable moments filmed in one continuous shot. The framing of the shots also helped to give the feeling of living in close confinements and add to the intensity of the situation. Once the characters have to start handling things outside the ship, the visuals were stunning. They were able to get multiple shots that would make for beautiful still images. There is a scene that revolves around radiation that was visually stunning with its use of color. The final shot of the film is also stunning and ended the film on a friendly note. It was able to convene the sorrow of the scene while adding beauty to the moment. Beyond the technical aspects, the story is a mixed bag. Like mentioned before, the characters could have been crafted better. If they were, it probably would have elevated the film considerably. However, the story can provide intense, powerful moments, but also drag in many areas. The beginning of the film is slow with its set-up and character development. Although the beginning tries to introduce the characters and story, it felt clunky and dull with the route it takes. Once the tension of the situation begins to build, the film switches into an edge of your seat thriller, but only for a short while. Some scenes provide plenty of suspense, while others go back to the dull moments that plagued the beginning. Although the story questions the characters’ morality, it is still confusing to see where they stand. The film also never truly presses them with this issue or allows the audience to see them struggle with it. The conclusion also continues to be a mixed bag. It provides a heartfelt moment, but also feels lackluster. It is almost like the film was building to nothing and simply unravels in the end. It became unclear what the film’s true message is, if there even is supposed to be one. Although it is a touching ending, it seemed as if the filmmakers did not want to compromise any character development but still wanted a bitter-sweet ending, so they took a strange way to achieve this. Perhaps if they had tacked on an extra 20 minutes to the film to expand upon numerous areas, they could have achieved a superior conclusion. As it stands, it works at the moment, but lessens in value as you reflect on it.
Sources: IMDB (The Trial of the Chicago 7), IMDB (Hillbilly Elegy), IMDB (The Old Guard), IMDB (The Devil All the Time), IMDB (Project Power), IMDB (Thunder Force) Images: Los Angeles Times, Netflix Featured Image: IMDB