Synopsis: An international crew of astronauts undertakes a privately funded mission to search for life on Jupiter’s fourth largest moon.
Stars: Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Anamaria Marinca
Director: Sebastian Cordero
Running Length: 90 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: For all the big budget sturm und drang blockbusters coming out of Hollywood nowadays, it’s nice to be reminded that good films can still be made on smaller budgets. Now, we all know that an indie comedy or drama could be produced for next to nothing but what about a science fiction film taking place in a galaxy far from earth?
That’s the first question I had when I saw the preview for Europa Report, director Sebastian Cordero’s thoughtfully meditative sci-fi morsel, back in early 2013. I’d recently come off of a run of impressive space set features (like the exquisitely designed and audience dividing Alien prequel Prometheus) so even though my interest was piqued my eyebrow was raised in a most questioning manner.
Ten minutes into the film and I knew Cordero had a winner on his hands, a film with the dramatic thrust of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the hidden unknown of The Abyss, and the threat of danger of the aforementioned Prometheus. Though small in scope the film is an impressive achievement considering the budget was less than 10 million dollars, didn’t boast any big name stars, and was released during the busy summer months when films like Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6 were ruling the charts.
The set-up is mostly hum-drum with a crew of six traveling to a moon of Jupiter to investigate any signs of life. As these missions often go, the crew encounters as many troubles getting there as they do when they arrive including damaged equipment, sensory deprivation, in-fighting, and arguing over who drank the last serving of Tang (OK, that last one doesn’t happen but I can’t imagine after a year in space something similar wouldn’t occur).
What makes the film come to life is how Cordero works with his resources to make his movie not just another C-grade space set adventure. There’s a consideration for savvy moviegoers who don’t necessarily want their sci-fi with lasers and slimy slimeballs but would appreciate an esoteric space journey that has mysteries of its own. Revealing more would damage the impact so let’s just say not everyone onboard gets a chance to marvel at Jupiter’s vistas with their colleagues.
A gathering of international actors like Sharlto Copley (Open Grave, Elysium), Michael Nyqvist (Disconnect, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Embeth Davidtz (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Amazing Spider-Man), and others gives the film a believably United Nations feel with each actor making the most out of their finely drawn characterizations.
When it starts to deal less with the unknown and more of the known the film loses a bit of its built up steam but the majority of its trim 90 minutes keeps you invested in the mission and the fates of the crew. The production design is rich, whether the audience is watching the actors on earth, in their shuttle, or venturing out into the black darkness and it’s compounded nicely by just right special effects from several VFX studios (Phosphene, Method Studios, Look Effects, Perception, Quadratic Digital).
This is a film with a brain and one that may turn off those looking for a more action-packed outer space adventure (for that, make sure to see Gravity in 3D) instead of a smaller, slower-paced film that takes its time arriving at the final destination.
After a small release in theaters and OnDemand, Europa Report is available on most streaming services. It’s one you’ll want to add to your queue if you like your sci-fi without a bunch of spiny aliens gnashing their gooey teeth at Sigourney Weaver (which, incidentally, I’m always a fan of).