This article discusses the Stowaway ending, so it will contain major spoilers.
The new Anna Kendrick film, Stowaway, might be a dark foreshadowing of films to come because of the current pandemic. We could see a host of bottleneck films, with micro casts. If we are lucky, they might even have a big name or two, but most likely a recognizable television star who comes with a cheaper price tag. That’s what you have in Netflix’s latest film: A moderately popular star, a well-respected thespian, and a performer you will know from a half dozen television appearances. They are all packaged together in a film so flat that it made me question whether the world is round after all.
Netflix’s Stowaway ending explained
Apparently, NASA is a thing of the past and private-funded companies are all the rage in exploring outer space. A mission in the future is headed to outer space by a company called Hyperion, a private company that is expanding its outreach, to say the least. This time, a three-man crew is on a trip that will take two years. A colony is already there. Commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) is headed on her third and final trek to the big red planet.
Along with her is a young physician, Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick). She is a Yale graduate. She spends every valuable second throwing this in the face of her Harvard alum mission mate, David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim). He is the ship’s biologist who is taking his microgreens and algae to Mars. This will give him room to expand on his work and write a few papers along the way. They are a fun pair, and you could eventually see them as a couple someday; even though Kendrick will eternally look like she is in her mid-20s at the most.
The mission hits a speed bump in the road to the cosmos, however. For some reason, a man has been tucked inside a compartment in the most important part of the ship. He falls from the ceiling, on top of Commander Barnett. His name is Michael Adams (Wynonna Earp‘s Shamier Anderson), AKA, the Stowaway. His harness is wrapped around the CDRA (Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly) and when he falls, he destroys it. This is the life support system. Do you understand? Unfortunately, with the mission being privately funded by a non-government agency, they cut corners. You see, no one thought to have a backup piece of equipment that helps filter out carbon dioxide in a spaceship that has limited oxygen in the first place.
They rushed the mission; making a ship that was barely big enough to hold three people (Kendrick is a small fry, mind you). This ship simply does not have enough adequate safety measures in the process. You know, in case some guy jumps in the back like he is headed for a Delta flight from San Francisco to San Diego.
There is no explanation offered on how or why Adams ended up on Kendrick’s ship. Sometimes an explanation isn’t needed, but it would have been helpful here. There is no hidden motivation. He is not escaping from his past, present, or future. He is not suffering from any notable mental health issues. The crew just accepts it was a horrible accident. If you are thinking the film will get to some payoff or grand explanation, you will be sorely disappointed as well. Stowaway is more interested in telling a morality play and how the passengers deal with the fact that there may not be enough oxygen on board for everyone to survive.
Stowaway ending — what happens next?
Commander Barnett is told by her bosses that there is nothing they can do. They cannot send a supply ship because the oxygen will be gone by the time it gets there (which will be five months) and right now they only have enough for two passengers. So, she has Kim use the complete set of microgreens he is growing and half of his algae to generate enough oxygen to help counterbalance the buildup of carbon dioxide on the ship. He does this begrudgingly since this will end any purpose he has on Mars; he will literally have nothing to do while on the planet. The first batch raises the amount to half of what they need. So, he breaks out the second half of the lifesaving algae, but it doesn’t take.
It goes bad almost immediately, and now they only have enough for three passengers. Barnett offers to be the snuff herself because she is the mission’s leader. They could use the pull on Mars to spin the ship around and send a pilot from the colony to help them land. That, however, is deemed too risky. The only option is to kill Adams because he is the reason behind this mess. He also has no probative value. He has never had the training or the education for this mission. Zoe, though, won’t have it. She argues with Kim and the Commander. They have time and they could climb up the wires to the Kingfisher, which has liquid oxygen inside it that is tethered to the ship.
Kim, though, has other plans. Three days pass, and he lets Adams know the news. He is done for. He gives him a needle full of drugs from Zoe’s clinic and tells him that there is not enough oxygen on board for all four to decide. If he takes the injection, it will be painless and he won’t feel a thing. Kim walks away and Adams ponders his life up to this point. Then Zoe walks by, convinces him that nothing is written in stone and they have more time. So, they decide to climb to the tethered Kingfisher to grab the liquid oxygen. Barnett can’t because her arm has a hairline fracture. Adams can’t because he doesn’t have the training. Zoe and Kim must go.
They manage to climb and fill up enough for a third person (though the film keeps telling us they have enough for three, now only two) and one more cylinder for Adams and are halfway done with the last when a solar flare alarm goes off. It signals they have only twenty minutes to get back. They have to leave one behind and when they get back to the ship, Zoe slips, and the canister she managed to salvage slips out of her hands and into the deep unknown.
All of them now are defeated, with only enough air for two passengers. The only option is to choose two people or someone goes back out to try and get the last canister. The only problem is that the solar flare’s radiation will kill anyone hours after entering the atmosphere. Zoe volunteers to go anyway, telling Kim to get back home and have a family, but send one of them to Yale. She manages to fill one up and makes her way back as patches of radiation dermatitis start to pop up on her face. She delivers the oxygen, her crew is now saved, and she sits on the deck outside while Kendrick narrates that she applied for the job as a joke she could tell at a party.
You know, how she applied for the mission to Mars and was turned down flat. She wasn’t and it cost her, along with sticking her neck out for Adams, her life in the process.