sundown town
witness for the prosecution (billy wilder, 1957)

geezer cinema: stowaway (joe penna, 2021)

Director Joe Penna and writer Ryan Morrison made a film called Arctic that got decent reviews, although it slipped right past me. Stowaway would have done the same ... I'd never heard of it ... until my wife picked it for our weekly Geezer Cinema date. One of the best things about something scheduled like Geezer Cinema is that every two weeks, my wife chooses the movie, and it's rarely something I would have chosen on my own. So I get exposed to new stuff.

Penna and Morrison intended to do a lot with a little. The budget was only $10 million. They got some good actors who were just below the kind of star power that costs money (Toni Collette, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson), and created a chamber piece where there were no other actors and most of the action took place on a space ship that looked mostly functional ... not cheap, but not expensive. They had a couple of nice visual set pieces that also looked inexpensive without looking cheap. And they veered away from standard space-ship shenanigans ... yes, there was a stowaway, but it wasn't the monster from Alien, just an engineer who was accidentally left on board (not the only time the plot was a bit too much to believe). Stowaway is interested in big concepts, human concepts about the meaning of life, which intensify when the four passengers realize the ship, which is headed for Mars, doesn't have enough air for all four of them.

The problem is, Stowaway moves at a glacial pace. It's about four people, but we never learn enough about them to actually care what happens to them. It's basically uninteresting for two hours. It has hints of Gravity, except Gravity is a great film that makes us care about Sandra Bullock floating in space. And it's half-an-hour shorter than Stowaway. If you're going to take your time with your story, you need to give us some reason to stick around, and Stowaway never gets there.


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