Space is a concept that’s always intrigued us, in our yearn to understand more of the universe than we currently know. Generally speaking we are a hungry race, hungry for knowledge, and understanding. Sebastian Cordero’s new film Europa Report (2013) asks the question, what if we discover something best left alone? Europa Report is a science fiction film, recently released on Itunes after it’s festival debut, with a cinematic release in August. It’s quite a conceptual mish-mash, a space drama like Moon (2009), burrowing the concept of found footage and horror most notably used in contemporary cult hit The Blair Witch Project (1999). In addition it also has touches of the documentary, in order to try and give it a realistic sheen.
Six astronauts go on a mission to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter in order to survey it for signs of sentient life. We the audience see the story unfold as ‘lost footage’ from the feed from mission control, to the Europa One. The mission goes swimmingly at first, as we see the crew first adapt to their surroundings in Europa one, inter-spliced with segments from those behind the mission talking about the general course and plan. An abrupt solarstorm knocks out the communication systems, leaving the crew essentially stranded with no choice to continue. The situation only gets more perilous as they set foot on Europa.
Let’s start with negatives first, so we can finish on a positive note for a film I quite liked. Europa Report generally follows that typical horror formula, as our protagonists gradually are killed off one by one, as we’re left questioned who will survive. The thing is, throughout the whole film there’s clips from a crew member who’s clearly survived the mission, and we don’t hear from the others. This reliefs the narrative of a lot of needed tension. We never really get to know our 6 ambitious young astronauts either. This usually means the emotional impact is significantly weakened when we don’t identify, or feel empathy for a much loved character. A lot of this is down to the script, it only touches on the surface of each character, a few of them only having a few lines throughout the entire film. In addition the cinematography is very realistic, but for a horror film you need those close-ups, and dramatic shots to milk the drama, which mostly isn’t there.
Apart from the loss of drama, the way it’s shot is very elegant. The shots inside the ship are from multiple cameras in fixed positions like the genuine article, and it’s very convincing. It’s a hard trade-up either way really, realism, or drama. One thing I have nothing but praise for are the wonderful aesthetics. The sights and sounds of the moon Europa are breathtaking, and the shots following the engineers as they attempt to fix the ship are like nothing I’ve ever seen. It captures the true wonders of exploration, and why we yearn to see new things. The casting of lesser-known actors is always a good thing when reality is involved because it preserves that authentic feel, the idea that these people are astronauts, not actors portraying them. The main recognizable presence on board is that of Sharlto Copley, from District 9 fame who gives an impactful performance, however brief his screen-time may be.
Overall Europa Report is worth a watch simply for the stunning visuals, and refreshing concept. Admittedly as it develops into horror territory I wasn’t scared, shocked, or fearful. I don’t even know if I was supposed to be? It’s still a fantastic attempt, and a solid entry into the science-fiction genre that’s only a few details from being a classic. That’s all for now, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views.