This film follows a long tradition of space movies that combine psychological drama with action. Really, how could traveling to Mars be any different? Stowaway puts its astronauts in a dire situation that requires self sacrifice and quick scientific problem-solving to survive, not unlike other recent titles like The Martian, Gravity, or Midnight Sky. And like these other films, the believability of the story rests on the actors. This is especially true when you've got just one setting and four characters (even the voice of the company contact communicated with back on earth is muffled, meaning the conversations are viewed as one-sided dialogues). The actors here do a fine job, but Collette stands out as the conflicted commander.
The rocket, situations, and solutions will sound scientifically valid enough to the lay person, though it's never fully explained how Michael came to be locked inside the spaceship's walls or how he could survive a rocket launch there. In any case, the psychological drama is much more interesting here than the action scenes, and the build-up is more engrossing than the resolution. Even on the space walks, the physicality of the challenge or the external threats are less intriguing than the characters' reactions -- will they have the emotional stamina to succeed? The characters stare out at the earth, receding further and further away from their spinning ship, a visual reminder of their dilemma, their solitude, and the uniqueness of their circumstance. Stowaway itself may not be so unique, but it's an engaging, attractive, and well-acted drama.