director Sebastián Cordero
Recommended by a friend as a preferred alternative to Alfonso Cuarón’s much-praised “trouble in space” movie Gravity (2013), Europa Report is also a “trouble in space” film, though in far deeper space, the moon Europa which orbits Jupiter. It’s also of far more obscure notice. Cuarón’s film, which I have yet to see, is on many a best of list for 2013. Europa Report is one of those flashes in the cinema that comes and goes quickly. It hadn’t been on my rather well-spread radar.
Interestingly, it falls into a more odd and obscure subgenre of science fiction, “realistic” or at least more “scientifically-grounded” science fiction. I say this because I’ve been stumbling around and bumping into a few other films that meet this qualification, oddly enough mostly at odds with the far out qualities that make a lot of science fiction enjoyable. However, for the more science-y folks who indulge in the genre, it’s something that seems to be appreciated for its sincerity and adherence to plausibility.
In this case, this story follows a crew on its way to explore Europa for signs of life. Only, once they get out to the moon of Europa, things start going wrong. Not mysterious things, but the kinds of disasters that could easily happen to someone in far space: contamination, loss of communication with Earth, missing landing targets, falling through ice.
Okay, spoiler alert. If you think it sounds good, see it. It is pretty good. But read no further.
There does turn out to be life there and there is an alien creature, only at the very end, and though it sort of accidentally kills the crew, it’s not like Alien (1979) or anything. It’s almost beside the point, though it is what the crew are after.
The film is good. Unfortunately it’s shot is partial “faux-found footage” style which I’ve come to deride largely. I will say that this style doesn’t take away from the film as much as it does in others. As the story gets moving, you get a little detached from being aware of the style of shooting to create a sense of verity of documentary footage captured by neutral instruments. Credit to director Sebastián Cordero and crew for making this whole thing work.
I was noting, oddly enough, that this is the first “faux-found footage” film that I’ve seen since I watched the tremendous documentary Leviathan (2012). I say this because Leviathan was filmed entirely with cameras situated to parts of a boat and to certain fishermen’s clothing. There is no talking to the camera, which is a common pretense in “faux-found footage”, someone with a camera, talking to someone beyond the screen. Really, the contrast is just more jarring in the pretense of shooting a fictional narrative to make it look like documentary. It’s really a cheap effect, not freeing, not clever, not insightful. Please stop employing it.