Rental Review - Europa Report

Europa Report (2013), PG-13, 90 minutes - In this unofficial Year of the Sci-Fi Film, Europa Report may not be as flashy, well known, or widely distributed as other entries to the genre, but it is a top notch entry none-the-less.  I'm not even sure that Europa Report was released in my area earlier this summer when it first came out.  I was made aware of it when I heard it mentioned on two different podcasts within a couple of days of each other.  Being a sci-fi fan, my curiosity was peaked but I had to wait until I could rent it from NetFlix to check it out.  

Europa Report is a fictional story about a privately funded space mission to Jupiter's fourth largest moon (Europa) in search of signs of life.  It is presented in a documentary style splicing of interviews and 'found footage', and does so to great effect.  The cast is small, but works very well together.  Unlike many films revolving around space missions, no member of the crew goes crazy or tries to sabotage the mission.  At times they disagree on what the best course of action may be, but in the end they all work towards the same goal of completing their mission.  That's not to say that things go smoothly though.  If they did, the film wouldn't be the thriller that it is.  In lieu of division between crew members, the environment (Europa) and the score of the film are used to really ramp up the tension of events.  You really can't underestimate how powerful unnatural surroundings can be in portraying uneasiness in characters.  Fans of television shows like Battlestar Galactica (2004) and The Walking Dead will be familiar with the works of composer Bear McCreary and know just how integral his scores can be in creating tension and emotion.

Compared to many other sci-fi films these days, Europa Report is a relatively low budget production.  There are a couple of recognizable faces in the cast (that I recognized at least): Sharlto Copley (James Corrigan), Michael Nyqvist (Andrei Blok), and Dan Fogler (Dr. Sokolov), but none are big name, blockbuster actors.  The rest of the cast is comprised of Christian Camargo (Dr. Daniel Luxembourg), Embeth Davidtz (Dr. Samantha Unger), Anamaria Marinca (Rosa Dasque), Daniel Wu (William Xu), Karolina Wydra (Dr. Katya Petrovna), and a cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson via archive footage.

In my opinion Europa Report is the best 'pure' sci-fi film that I can think of since 2009's Moon (I have not seen Gravity yet).  By 'pure' I mean a sci-fi story that is believable in regard to today's technology (as opposed to something like Star Trek).  It has a simple story that is paced really well and is driven by its characters and their singular objective.  It also happens to be one of the best uses of 'found footage' in film that I can think of, which is refreshing in this day and age when the technique is way overused.  All in all, I feel that Europa Report is excellent and a must see for anyone who appreciates sci-fi based in the present.  I have a feeling this one will be getting added to the personal movie library when the opportunity arises.

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