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Stowaway 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Director: Joe Penna
Writers: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim
“A production designer once told me, ‘never do a movie in a submarine or in space,'” Anna Kendrick recalls. She defied that warning, however, to make Stowaway, the galactic sci-fi thriller from director Joe Penna (Arctic) headed to Netflix on April 22.
“It was so simple and so lean, but totally compelling,” Kendrick tells EW of her initial reaction to Penna and Ryan Morrison’s taut script, which inspired her to enter the cosmos despite that well-intentioned warning. The actress stars as Zoe, a medical researcher on a spaceship headed to Mars on a two-year mission. On board with her are the ship’s commander (Toni Collette) and a biologist (Daniel Dae Kim) — and an unexpected stowaway (Shamier Anderson), whom the crew find trapped inside the ship shortly into their mission. With the small craft outfitted only to support three passengers and some irreparable damage done to its life support systems, the crew faces an impossible problem, which only Zoe believes they can solve.
“I had never really read anything like it,” adds Collette. “It is contained and the characters are confined but the questions posed, moral and otherwise, are vast and wide open.”
While the concept of being trapped in a tiny space may resonate after a year in quarantine, “it’s ultimately about community, survival, and sacrifice,” Collette points out. “Who can’t relate to that at the moment?”
For Kendrick, “the thing that feels really relevant is less the isolation of it and more that kind of problem-solving part of your brain that we were all engaging so vigorously in the first couple months of the pandemic,” she says. “Just that constant problem-solving of, ‘wait, okay, how do we fix this?’ And just when it seems like you’re onto something, there’s some very obvious fundamental problem.”
The tension is heightened by the constriction of the spacecraft, existing in sometimes-shocking contrast with the extreme openness of the endless starscape just outside it. “It was like being in a spaceship. It was so cool,” Kendrick says of the extremely detailed set, filming in the narrow corridors of which demanded a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears from the camera crew” to capture. “I know [Penna] wanted it to feel incredibly claustrophobic — and that was not hard!”
The cast itself was compact, too, with just the four characters trapped together in this dangerous environment. “Because [they] are so isolated, it forced the emotionality of what they undertake onto the actors. There was nothing else to lean on,” Collette says. Luckily, the four of them were well-matched: Kendrick and Kim hit it off so well that Penna decided to add more scenes between their characters, and “we all were just in awe of Toni,” Kendrick recalls. “It helped that Toni was playing the captain. It was one of those art-imitating-life moments.” Another came in the form of Anderson as the stowaway, being newer to the scene than any of his costars, but “more than proving [his] right to be there,” she says.
The immersive set and the cast’s natural chemistry made some of the film’s authenticity easy to create, but suiting up for space proved more challenging. “Obviously, there are many women who are capable of being astronauts, but I am not one of them,” admits Kendrick, a self-described “hundred-pound weakling.” Her spacesuit was “not as authentic as [it would be] if I was in NASA,” but it was designed to be as realistic as possible, with as much weight removed from it as the team possibly could. Otherwise, “I couldn’t stand up in it, basically,” Kendrick says (though she was reassured by the reminder that in actual space, it wouldn’t weigh anything).
“I will also say this!” she adds. “They put the real suit on Daniel Dae Kim — and we’ve all seen Daniel Dae Kim, he’s an Adonis — and he really, really hated it too. He could have done it, but he was pretty miserable as well. So that did make me feel a little bit better.”
Heavier than the weightiest spacesuit, however, is the ticking clock chasing the four characters through the film. “These incredible people basically sit on a bomb and allow themselves to be flung into the unknown in the name of science and exploration,” Collette says. “There are so many points at which the mission can go wrong. It’s fine until it isn’t. Then it becomes a moral dilemma before transmuting into absolute survival. It’s petrifying.”
“There were times when we’d be about to start rolling, and Toni would close her eyes and just whisper to herself, ‘we’re in space, we’re in space, we’re in space,'” Kendrick remembers. “It would add this level of absolute terror and desperation.”
So, if she ever got the real opportunity to go to Mars? “Never. Not ever, not in a million years. Never, never, never, never, never, never,” Kendrick says without hesitation. “I would do a lot of things… I would skydive. I would get a neck tattoo before I’d go to space.”