Movie Review: EUROPA REPORT

Europa Report

An awe-inspiring return to science fiction in the truest sense of the word…

About The Film (From the film’s official site):

EUROPA REPORT follows a contemporary mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate the possible existence of alien life within our solar system. When unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean could exist underneath Europa’s icy surface and may contain single-celled life, Europa Ventures, a privately funded space exploration company, sends six of the best astronauts from around the world to confirm the data and explore the revolutionary discoveries that may lie in the Europan ocean. After a near-catastrophic technical failure that leads to loss of communication with Earth and the tragic death of a crew member, the surviving astronauts must overcome the psychological and physical toll of deep space travel, and survive a discovery on Europa more profound than they had ever imagined.

EUROPA REPORT is an impressively constructed and well executed film.  By relying on the tension and danger inherent in a modern-day, long-term space voyage rather than the more fantastic concepts of advanced aliens and futuristic technology, it noticeably sets itself apart and creates a sense of verisimilitude that captivates you while watching.

Its found footage, nonlinear format amplifies this effect, keeping you guessing and piecing together clues up until the very end.  This almost makes a repeat viewing essential, as knowing the full story places it in a slightly different, yet more emotional context upon a second look.

Sebastian Cordero (PESCADOR) directs this film so realistically that you nearly forget you’re watching a fictional account of a fictional mission.  From archival footage of Neil deGrasse Tyson to a launch sequence that feels as if you’re watching live coverage on CNN, he incorporates so much of what we associate with this kind of event that you buy into the story almost immediately.

The actors deserve just as much credit for enhancing the sense that what you’re watching is real.  Their portrayals of these characters work because they don’t portray them as characters.  This has the welcome effect of pulling you even further into the world of their tiny spacecraft as they fight to succeed in their mission.

Part of what these actors do so well here is convey just how mundane the tasks involved in an extended space expedition of this kind would become after months of repetition.  During most of their journey, they don’t have the sense of excitement you might expect, but rather a level of enthusiasm you’d see in your father as he drives the family on a road trip to grandma’s house.

You might think that this would be a bad thing, but it isn’t.  This works exceptionally well because it underscores that the important events actually mean something when they occur.  The film’s moments of wonder truly feel profound because of the intensified emotional reaction to them.  EUROPA REPORT creates an experience truly shared between you and its characters.

The best example of this is can be seen with the character of James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley of DISTRICT 9), arguably the heart of the film, and his recording of messages for his wife and son back home.

He reflects upon the time he has lost by being a part of the mission at one point during the film in an almost offhand manner that I found to be affecting in a truly human way.  He doesn’t monologue about the things he’s missing or tell any stories about his birth.  Nor does he employ any of the other clichéd movie tropes you might expect from a scene like this.  He simply says, “You know, my boy’s going to be six when I see him again.”

Writer Philip Gelatt (THE BLEEDING HOUSE) deserves credit for crafting a screenplay that supplies the actors with the kind of material that seems effortless, yet provide the film with many powerfully simple moments such as that one.

Powerfully simple is a description that also applies to Bear McCreary’s score for the film, which perfectly complements the story it supports.  His music, built around four haunting piano notes, sneaks up on you, and non-intrusively enhances the film so as to increase the impact of the events rather than overpower them.  It’s one of those works of film music that keeps you firmly rooted in what you’ve just witnessed and prompts you to reflect upon the themes of the story while the end credits roll.

When it’s all said and done, your opinion of EUROPA REPORT is largely going to depend on what expectations you have of the film going in, and what conclusions you about the events you arrive at as they progress.  My suggestion is to clear your mind of any expectations and allow yourself to experience the film on its terms, rather than your own.

You’ll find yourself rewarded with an enjoyable and unexpectedly emotional journey that arrives at a thought-provoking conclusion.

Rating: 5 Out Of 5

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