Review: Europa Report
PLOT: After the disappearance of a privately funded space expedition, the events are finally released via footage received from the doomed crew of Europa One. The discovery is a surprisingly inspired take on the “found footage” science fiction movie with not a single killer moon rock spider. Some Spoilers ahead.
In the new science fiction take on the “found footage” sub-genre, a group of astronauts are on an expedition to discover new life on Europa – one of Jupiter’s moons. It is a brave and dangerous journey from which they never return. Unlike most documentary style features however EUROPA REPORT is far more skilled in its exploration of deep space without the typical monster movie pitfalls that such a movie usually attracts. This is a smarter and more compelling feature than say APOLLO 18, even if it tells its story at a more leisurely pace.
Directed by Sebastián Cordero, the story unfolds as a mystery where we witness video feed from Europa One. The six astronauts on-board are gathered for a mission to find life outside of what we know. We also see select interviews of those in charge of the mission including Embeth Davitz as Dr. Samantha Unger. Bits and pieces of the puzzle are revealed early shedding only hints of light on what actually happened during the ill-fated mission. It is an interesting choice which ends up working in favor of the film, it also helps the audience to connect to the characters particularly Sharlto Copely (DISTRICT 9) as one of the astronauts who is clearly missing his son, Michael Nyqvist (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as the oldest crew member and the ships pilot Anamaria Marinca.
As the movie begins to peel back its layers, we discover that those on-board do ultimately reach their destination. Yet without revealing too much the story builds to reveal the circumstances that led to the disappearance of the six members. Certainly this style of filmmaking has become a little too common for low-budget features yet EUROPA REPORT is ahead of the curve. Avoiding the overuse of shaky-cam, the film is shown via the cameras placed on-board the ship for documentation. The use of handheld is a rarity but it is used in an effective way, especially when Corrigan is filming videos to send home to his son.
Technically speaking Cordero has put together an interesting film that puts as much focus on the tedious day-to-day happenings in space travel. Most of the action sequences are subtly played with an emphasis on realism as opposed to manic horror. For some however, the telling of this story – with a screenplay by Phillip Gelatt – may not offer enough excitement or visceral thrills. Even still, EUROPA REPORT is visually interesting in the way it presents itself as documentary footage rather than an atypical fright fest. It is easy to believe that what is happening on screen is completely realistic.
As much as I applaud the sense of realism portrayed, the lack of a truly satisfying conclusion prevents EUROPA REPORT from being as terrific as its story suggests it could. Even still it is a relatively short and certainly entertaining watch. The sense of wonder and the ultimate sense of dread is very palatable and much better than the current spate of found footage low-budget features. What Cordero and screenwriter Gelatt present is a compelling enough dissection of the fear of the unknown. It is one that is worth experiencing for true science fiction fans.