Netflix's Space Weepie 'Stowaway' Struggles to Achieve Lift Off

Anna Kendrick stars in this technically impressive yet inert Netflix original movie.


Where the famous docking sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey presented the mechanics of space travel as an interstellar waltz, showcasing the movements of machines over the strings of “The Blue Danube,”¬†the opening of Stowaway, Netflix’s latest science-fiction adventure film, frames space travel as a symphony of jargon. Chatter between¬†the home base of Hyperion, the private company sponsoring the Mars mission, and¬†the ship’s eagle-eyed commander Marina (Toni Collete) plays out as the vessel’s two other known passengers, medical doctor Zoe (Anna Kendrick) and biologist David (Daniel Dae Kim), ready their fragile stomachs for landing. There’s little poetry or beauty to be found; instead, exploring the cosmos is all business-and nausea.

Filmmaker Joe Penna, who directed 2018’s Mads Mikkelsen-against-the-elements survival narrative Arctic, rarely wavers from this slightly clinical, painstakingly logical approach. In the early stages, when the movie is still sketching out the details of life on the¬†cramped station, Zoe and David are established via their Ivy League educational backgrounds. (Zoe went to Harvard; David is a Yale man.) It’s certainly intentional that the two scientists scan more as embodiments of their LinkedIn profiles or their resumes than their actual personalities, but the effect is more grating than insightful. The characters are as squeaky-clean as the sterile environment they move through.

When the titular stowaway, a Hyperion engineer named Michael (Shamier Anderson), makes his presence known by falling through the ceiling, knocked out and bleeding, you spring to attention. At last, here’s the tension-filled disruption that will power the rest of the movie! And while that’s certainly true-Michael’s arrival kicks off a series of technical mishaps, routine adjustments, and resource challenges that drive the plot-the specific way Michael influences the story feels oddly fumbled. (This isn’t exactly a spoiler, but if you’re super-sensitive to plot reveals, maybe skip the next two paragraphs.)¬†Any mystery about his motive or the circumstances surrounding his appearance on the ship are dealt with quickly and efficiently: He’s a nice, kind man with a tragic backstory who ended up on the ship because of an accident. That’s about it.

In certain ways, this is a refreshing and surprising twist. A more conventional stowaway thriller would involve Michael potentially being a double-agent staged by Hyperion or a saboteur sent by a rebellious political faction. Still, as much as you want to commend Penna and co-writer Ryan Morrison for zigging where others might zag, the path they choose to go down, a slow-burn morality play centred around the ethics of self-sacrifice and the headache of executing complicated ship repairs, fails to achieve lift off. The storytelling has a grim logic to it, and the actors sell the stress of the wrenching decisions they have to make, but too many mishaps and incidents feel scrupulously reverse-engineered to create a surprisingly minimal amount of tension. As suspense should be rising, the film’s restraint becomes a liability.

Like last year’s George Clooney Netflix science-fiction snooze The Midnight Sky, Stowaway is indebted to Alfonso¬†Cuaron’s Oscar-winning Gravity, arguably the most influential space weepie of the last decade. (It also shares a bit of¬†The Martian’s can-do DNA.) With its strong cast and tight pace, Stowaway is better than Clooney’s more ungainly movie, which couldn’t decide what type of po-faced parable it wanted to be, but it still suffers from a sense of creative austerity. Gravity stripped away the excess of the space movie, telling a gripping¬†survival story with dazzling visual inventiveness and emotional intensity. A movie like Stowaway lacks sex, romance, spirituality, philosophy, or, perhaps most crucially, a real sense of adventure. Though it might be accurate in its portrait of space travel, that might not be¬†enough to make the journey-or the barf bag-worth the trouble.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter¬†@danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef,¬†Cuong Nguyen¬†will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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