Heist movies provide some of the best watching experiences when it comes to thrilling audiences with suspense and intrigue. Often, these types of films come with a good amount of action sequences and fascinating backstories for all impacted parties. Declan Whitebloom, known for his vibrant storytelling in music videos for some of the world’s biggest artists, aims to bring his enthusiasm for filming onto the big screen. However, Whitebloom struggles to bring the excitement into his heist film, Stowaway, his feature debut, like he’s done in past music videos.
Previously called The Yacht, the story follows Bella Denton (Ruby Rose), an impecunious and tenacious young woman whose street smarts have taken her far in a life of petty crime and partying. When her estranged father, Arthur Denton (Major Dodge), dies suddenly, he leaves Bella with a yacht as a parting gift. Coming to terms with her new-found prosperity, Bella spends a night of luxury with her love interest Michael (Patrick Schwarzenegger) on her new yacht. Unfortunately, three criminals have other plans for it. Bella must find a way to survive and outsmart the three thieves who have commandeered her yacht in order to enjoy her new livelihood.
Whitebloom’s directorial debut is what happens when an inexperienced film director gets a hold of an underdeveloped script. The feature lacks any sort of visual appeal and contains questionable moments that don’t make sense for the progression of the story. Though it has enormous potential, Stowaway (which shares the same name as the Netflix movie) doesn’t reach it. The cast is good, the narrative is easy to follow, and the story contains some typical, yet fun, tropes that are prevalent in heist films. But so many of the choices in this feature simply do not work. For one, some of the sequences contain extremely poor lighting at all the wrong moments. At times, it becomes a distraction and takes away from the building intrigue set up by the screenplay.
The script also takes a turn for the worst when screenwriter Ian Hayden demonstrates his inability to write women and everyone’s interactions with her. It’s unsettling to see that the only woman in this film is treated like her opinion or feelings do not matter. Bella has been estranged from her father since she was a young girl and, as a result, she has residual feelings of abandonment and resentment when it comes to him. Throughout Stowaway, almost every man tells Bella that her father was a good person and they overemphasize this without giving her a chance to share her viewpoint. Never mind that her adult experiences with her father have been non-existent and have brought danger and loneliness to her life. None of these things matter because all the men in Stowaway get the final say when determining who Arthur Denton was as a person.
The one redeeming factor of Stowaway is the acting from its cast. Ruby Rose, who plays Bella, is convincing as a young woman trying to escape her confinement on the yacht. Just like the majority of her life, many hurdles have been stacked against her, but she finds a way to use her street smarts to escape a dangerous situation. Frank Gillo stars as Meeser, an apparent family friend to Bella’s father. Though underutilized like the rest of the cast, he does everything he can to elevate his thinly written character via a great performance.
Compared to the likes of David Fincher’s Panic Room, Stowaway doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor. The script is bland, the characters are one-dimensional, and this game of cat and mouse never overcomes its lackluster moments due to technical hindrances that are hard to ignore. Viewers may come for a thrilling heist film with action-packed sequences and an empowering story about a young woman fighting for survival. However, the filmmakers behind Stowaway settled for a dull story that relied too heavily on its cast to unsuccessfully pull this uninteresting feature out of uninspired territory.
Stowaway released on AMC+ August 5, 2022. The film is 84 minutes long and not yet rated.