AWAY – Review by Susan Granger
Looking for a new Netflix series to binge? Oscar-winner Hilary Swank stars in this cathartic, compelling sci-fi drama about the first manned mission to Mars.
As tenacious NASA Commander Emma Green, she heads an international crew, along with veteran Russian cosmonaut/engineer Misha Popov (Mark Ivanir), Chinese chemist Wang Lu (Vivian Wu), Ghanaian-British botanist Kwesi (Ato Essandoh) and second-in-command Ram (Ray Panthaski), the ship’s Indian doctor.
As the episodes unfold, each astronaut has his or her own personal backstory. Emma’s involves her supportive husband, NASA scientist Matt Green (Josh Charles), and 15 year-old daughter Lexi (Talitha Eliana Bateman), who will face unexpected challenges during Emma’s three-year mission.
Perfectly timed during this worldwide pandemic, the initial 10 episodes capture our current anxiety and paranoia, as viewers can identify with the isolation and poignant emotional dilemmas faced by Atlas’ crew members who communicate with loved ones via video chat/cell phones/texting although they’re millions of miles away.
“While these people are working towards a goal together, they also have this gravitational pull to Earth,” explains Swank. “All of us having these families made it a love story.”
It’s definitely a character-driven, family/workplace epic, involving love & loss, faith & religion, making the perilous space journey a very real experience. Created by Andrew Hinderaker from an “Esquire” article by Chris Jones about the strains on the astronauts’ personal lives, each segment presents new challenges.
Weightlessness plays a pivotal part. Since it was obvious that the extensive wire-work would be physically grueling, particularly on the glutes and abs, the actors attended a few weeks of arduous ‘stunt’ boot-camp in Vancouver, where the series is filmed.
In addition, Swank spent time training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, meeting astronaut Karen Nyberg, who spent 180 days in space; Swank also chatted with Jessica Meir, who was onboard the International Space Station at the time.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, the first season of “Away” is an engaging 8. It has all the right stuff!