Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 (Limited)
Currently Playing on VOD Platforms
Director: Sebastián Cordero
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 6/10
Found footage films seem to be a dime-a-dozen these days. They’re quick and cheap. As of late the gimmick has been used primarily by horror films. Grave Encounters, Apollo 18, The Amityville Haunting, Paranormal Activity 4 and the list goes on and on. Used properly and you get films like the first Paranormal Activity, Diary of the Dead or the soon to be released Delivery. Used poorly you get films like the aforementioned Amityville Haunting or Paranormal Activity 4. Sebastian Cordero’s latest film Europa Report is his first foray into science fiction and the latest film to utilize the found footage format.
A discovery is made that supports the possibility of life on other planets. The data has drawn attention to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa. Europa is covered in ice and it is believed that a liquid environment lies beneath the icy crust. It’s an environment that could support some kind of life. A privately funded expedition is put together and a team of astronauts are sent out into deep space. Their mission is to land on Europa and see what they find. The mission is being filmed by the onboard cameras found through out the spacecraft and transmitted back to Earth. Early on in the film we learn that the mission did not go off without a hitch as communications were lost and it was believed the mission failed. The remainder of the film is comprised of the footage that was taken while communications were down.
Thanks in part to their copious amounts of research and an attention to detail Cordero and screenwriter Philip Gelatt have created a scientifically sound science fiction film. This could very well be what it could look like if man were to embark on such an expedition today. An unfortunate byproduct of this level of science-fact is that the film can at times come off as a bit dry as we are basically left to watch six people float about the cabin talking about life in space. There’s nothing particularly exciting about that. As they get closer to Europa things begin to get more interesting while still maintaining that level of scientific realism.
The visual effects are top notch for this sort of genre film. Set design is also quite good as the ship interiors feel appropriately cold and at times constricting. The editing of the film is quite good for the most part. There is a significant moment that occurs later in the film that loses emotional impact because we already knew how it turned out. We knew the what but not the how. Perhaps it was intended to drub up some sort of mystery to make it more interesting but it didn’t play out that way. Enrique Chediak’s solid cinematography, which is best suited for the big screen, really highlights the interiors of the ship and the exteriors on Europa itself. Once the expedition gets to Europa Cordero keeps a decent pace and what unfolds is interesting. The only thing that was truly missing was a sense of awe. The sort of awe that would be inherent if you were watching this if these were real true-life events. However it really relies on one’s suspension of disbelief and unfortunately it can only get you so far.
The acting is quite good. Cordero has assembled an international cast that includes Embeth Davidtz, Sharlto Copley and Michael Nyqvist. You do believe that they are the astronauts. The performances aren’t flashy but are nicely grounded. There isn’t a “Buck Rogers” type in this bunch just a group of scientists on a mission of discovery.
Probably the last great science fiction film in recent memory was Duncan Jones’ Moon. Thanks to Cordero’s direction Europa Report is able to stand out on its own. There are elements in this film that are reminiscent of Peter Hyams’ 2010 from the local to the attention to science. Because of the found footage gimmick it is particularly difficult to buy into the magnitude and reality of the unfolding events. This is likely due to the fact that the film is not set in the present day. Still it’s a decent science fiction film that is an interesting while not awe inspiring take on man’s journey to where no one has gone before.
Check out our interview with director Sebastián Cordero Here.