Stowaway, Explained

The idea of traveling in space is scary enough by itself. But imagine encountering a perfect stranger while being on board a spaceship. Based on the gripping premise of a space crew discovering a stowaway passenger, Brazilian filmmaker Joe Penna’s space sci-fi ‘Stowaway’ creates hair-raising tension as it picks up its pace through the second half. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong on the ship, and the crew is left to make an unappealing choice. Films set in the vast uncharted blankness often stress aspects of humanity, and compassion plays a major part in weaving the heartfelt sci-fi drama.

While the film walks the safe path of being straightforward in its approach, the perfectly binding chemistry between the characters makes it a worthwhile spin. Anna Kendrick (whom you may know from the ‘Pitch Perfect‘ series), Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette, and Shamier Anderson play their parts with conviction, and their characters never seem out of place. The ending is somewhat anticlimactic, and as the tension subsides, the film leaves a tingling sense of numbness in the mind of the audience. If you are left rewinding the ending in your memory, we hope to give your restless soul some closure. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Stowaway Plot Synopsis

A crew of three are sent by space agency Hyperion on a mission to extend human life on Mars. The crew includes ship Commander Marina Barnett, medical hand Zoe Levenson, and biologist David Kim. Passengers of the space shuttle Kingfisher are on a two-year mission to create an ideal environment on Mars in which life can thrive. Following a 12 hour long journey on the Kingfisher, they dock the ship to the space station MTS-42 and get prepared for the journey ahead. However, not before long, the unsuspecting crew finds a stranger stowed away on the life support assembly.

To their relief, the man wakes up from the slumber, but this changes a lot for the crew. Named Michael Adams, the man is found to be a launch support engineer working for Hyperion. He seems to have no idea how he came on board, and the crew decides to go along with it. Well, there are not many options other than compliance, but to their dismay, the carbon dioxide filter is irreparably damaged, which puts all lives on the ship in a potentially life-threatening situation.

The crew discusses this, and while David and Marina believe that Michael has to sacrifice himself, the tender-hearted Zoe fights for Michael. Following the orders of Marina, David starts cultivating his algae on the ship so that some much-needed oxygen can be produced. But in the absence of sophisticated equipment, the algae go to waste. David suggests that Michael should take his life, but Zoe is convinced that they should opt for Plan B instead. Zoe and David take the steep route to the antechamber of the Kingfisher and get enough oxygen for the crew to last the mission, but a solar storm alert makes them hurry back to the spaceship.

They are about to reach their end of the space station, but Zoe cannot hook herself to the tether, and the oxygen cylinder parts from her, disappearing into the vast abyss of space. The endeavor goes to waste, but there is still another cylinder filling up in the antechamber. Michael offers to go, but he is inept. In the final moments, Zoe rises to the occasion and walks out into the solar storm to procure the fail-safe oxygen.

Stowaway Ending: Does Zoe Live? Why Do Scars Form On Her Face?

A woman of relentless compassion who is willing to risk her own life to save someone else’s, Zoe emerges to be the hero of the film in the penultimate moments. The courage that she shows in the face of adversity is inspiring to say the least, and as she cares for her fellow passengers, she rises above all of them with her emotional quotient. Zoe is a doctor by profession who had applied for the space mission because she thought that getting rejected by Hyperion would make a funny anecdote.

In the claustrophobic space of the shuttle, she is a breath of fresh air. According to David, she is the onboard entertainer. When Michael is first discovered on the ship, she goes out of her way to make him feel comfortable. While it may seem at the outset that her compassion stems from her being a doctor, the script gradually reveals that it is something inherent in her. Moved by Michael’s story, she fights for his life till the end.

It is also evident that she is the smartest and the most creative person on the ship. The idea of accessing oxygen from the Kingfisher was Zoe’s idea, and when the algae die, they have no option but to execute Zoe’s plan. On their first trip, David and Zoe manage to fill one canister with oxygen. Before Zoe can fill the second one, a solar storm alert threatens their lives, and they hurry back to MTS. After freefalling down the tether, Zoe hits the outer wall of the ship and loses the cylinder.

The crew is devastated, but the forever optimistic Zoe is not ready to give up on humanity. She makes another trip to the other side and brings back the canister. But the solar radiation has penetrated her body, and red patches of scars form on her face. In an anti-climactic outcome, the final shot sees Zoe waiting for her final moment as she basks in waves of green-hued radiation. As the sequence recollects her speeches in the voiceover, it seems that Zoe emerges as the martyr of this space drama.

Can the Rest of Them Live With the Remaining Oxygen?

Following the damage of the CDRA (Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly), Marina discloses to the rest of the crew that the remaining oxygen is only sufficient for two. However, when the algae plan fails, it is understood that there is nearly not enough oxygen to keep a single person alive. Considering Zoe’s plan, David and Zoe walk out of the spaceship to acquire oxygen from the antechamber.

After a nerve-racking episode, the duo reaches the destination. By the time Marina lets David and Zoe know about the solar storm, half of the audience is dead from the unbearable suspense. By then, Zoe has started filling the second canister, and she pleads with Marina by saying that the extra oxygen can cater for Michael. With Zoe dead and a canister full of oxygen in their hand, we can assume that the rest of the crew lives to set their feet on Mars.

What is Michael Doing on the Ship?

Following Marina’s inquiry to Hyperion, this question bugs the audience from the very beginning. Michael’s unexpected presence on the ship sets off the course of the narrative, and yet the film provides no convincing answer regarding how Michael happened to be on the ship. Michael is found in one of the unlikeliest of places, tucked away on the rooftop of the CO2 removal assembly, and it is not clear how he came to be there. Upon finding Michael’s identity card, the crew comes to know that Michael is a launch support engineer working for Hyperion.

His reaction after regaining consciousness is one of shock and astonishment, and it seems that being on a two-year mission to Mars is not what he intends to do. However, when interrogated by Marina about the incident on the Launchpad, he uses the passive voice, claiming that he was “clipped in.” Halfway into the film, while sending a message to his sister Ava, he says that he is really enjoying his time on the ship while noting that he hates that “it happened this way.” While Zoe has mastered the suspension of disbelief by this time, we cannot help but suspect Michael’s character more with each passing minute. All things considered, it is most likely that he stowed himself away in the CDRA, lending the film its title.

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