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Up in the air

In Stowaway, an oxygen shortage puts a life-or-death quandary before a group of astronauts

Stowaway Productions, LLC

Up in the air

This may sound bad, but remember it’s only a movie: As I watched Stowaway, I was hoping one of the characters would die. And it didn’t matter to me which one.

Stowaway (streaming on Netflix and rated TV-MA for language) tells the story of a crew of three traveling by spaceship to a colony on Mars. To their shock, they find Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson), an injured launch support engineer, apparently unconscious behind a panel. They’re concerned his presence might not be accidental.

The crew also realizes the ship’s occupants will soon exhaust the small amount of oxygen available. All four will die of carbon dioxide asphyxiation before they reach the red planet, still two years away.

Unless one of them dies within 10 days.

Adding to the tension is the specter of race hanging over the capsule like a radioactive cloud: Michael is the only black person on board. While ethnicity never comes up in dialogue, it’s painful to watch the crew write Michael off so casually. He’s the source of the problem, they reason, so he’s expendable. No matter that the stowaway seems not to have a mean bone in his body.

“Look, we were chosen to be here,” Cmdr. Barnett (Toni Collette) tells mission biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) and doctor Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick). They consider Michael “a danger to the crew and mission.” How often have African American people been told their lives don’t count? The film is clearly making a statement.

To varying degrees, all four struggle with fear and guilt. But the fact is that for three to reach Mars alive, it will take the sacrifice of one life.

Or a miraculous rescue.

Mission control is working on a solution. David ponders repurposing the algae samples he brought to provide extra oxygen, but doing so will destroy years of his research, past and future. An oxygen tank located on an exterior part of the ship might be accessible by a dangerous spacewalk.

Zoe recounts an incident from her youth when she tried to save a drowning man in the ocean. When she too began to drown and had given up hope, out of nowhere a boater came to the rescue. And such was I dreading from Stowaway—a deus ex Hollywood ending trumpeting science’s claim to have all the answers. It doesn’t. Viewers deserve a dose of reality.

No spoilers forthcoming, but I can commend the film for not impairing the story with sensuality, graphic violence, or—with one exception—misuses of God’s name. (The characters drop several other expletives.)

Whichever type of movie ending you hope for, Christians rejoice in a Savior who, at the cross, united ultimate sacrifice with miraculous rescue.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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