Netflix offers homage to 1970s disaster films in Away - Aidan Smith

Somebody high up in Netflix must have loved those 1970s disaster movies like Airport and The Poseidon Adventure, because the streaming service can’t stop reviving the concept in its new creations.

Saturday, 12th September 2020, 7:30 am
Hilary Swank as Emma Green in Away

Disparate types assembled and very quickly trapped in a hurtling, disintegrating metal carrier – this was the classic group jeopardy set-up, and the new take on these thrillers has involved planes, trains and now in Away, space rockets.

The drama opens with a highly impressive lunar landscape. Did Netflix with their stratospheric budgets go to the Moon for this shot? But then, instead of the poignant plinky-plink of a piano performed by a professional on the soundtrack – a seemingly non-negotiable feature of all TV shows right now, in whatever genre – Away has one of the leads do it falteringly from his sitting-room. Cheapskates!

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This is Matt Logan (Josh Charles) who was in pole position for the first flight to Mars until the discovery of a genetic disorder. He and wife Emma Green, a fellow astronaut, (played by Hilary Swank) have a daughter who they subject to some terrible pushy parenting from the soccer touchlines so that maybe she would fancy being 40 million miles away – but it is Emma who will lead the mission.

The disparate crew includes a British botanist, an Indian second-in-command with a beard which is surely not going to stay this artfully sculpted on the three-year mission, a walking Russian cliché (make that floating, there’s no gravity of course) and, just as stern and suspicious, a Chinese chemist.

This is the Joint Mars Initiative. The Americans may have put up the money but there’s little sympathy for Green when she cocks up dealing with an onboard fire. “The Chinese want her replaced, the Russians would prefer she’s shot,” Nasa learn. Then her hubby suffers a stroke.

Does she rush back or press on? Nasa’s female boss warns that abandoning the mission would be “spitting in the face” of womankind. “Don’t give me that feminist bullsh*t!” screams Swank, who does her best to withstand the soapy moments that are soon flying around like meteorites.

Away isn’t terrible but for this child of the Space Race it isn’t Fireball XL5.

At the beginning of The Duchess (also on Netflix), listening in horror to her ex’s influence on their daughter, Katherine Ryan wails: “Oh my God, I’ve raised a Tory!” There are some decent lines but this comedy is in debt to Motherland and Ryan’s performance is more like stand-up.

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