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Europa Report
★★★☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Europa Report is an interesting and mostly effective blend of found-footage faux-documentary and science fiction thriller. Through news reports and in-flight video recordings, the film follows five astronauts on a contemporary mission to investigate the possibility of alien life beneath the ice on Jupiter's moon Europa. While the found-footage genre always feels gimmicky to me, it does provide a format for small-budget pictures to tell high-concept genre tales that are every bit as effective as their blockbuster counterparts. This type of picture mines its thrills and scares from the internal fears and perceptions of an audience rather than by throwing extensive CGI, contrived melodrama, and/or meaningless violence up on the screen. Europa Report succeeds in constructing what appears to be an accurate depiction of a space mission--not only in terms of the science, but also in the way human beings would behave and react on such a mission. The cast of unknowns creates a collection of believable individuals, each tasked with specific mission responsibilities. These people are not the most dynamic movie characters, but that is part of the film’s intention. Director Sebastián Cordero and writer Philip Gelatt subvert our genre expectations and avoid almost all the trappings of both sci-fi and thriller, yet still deliver a genuine nail-biter. Perhaps because of the movie’s slow, procedural approach that, by the time the astronauts arrive at their destination, we are fully invested in the reality of their situation. Europa Report is little more than a fresh presentational spin on an old B-movie tradition, and I wish the filmmakers had found a way to inject a little more character into their story without deviating from their intimate, minimalist style. Nevertheless, the film succeeds at communicating a palpable sense of wonder to the audience and we get a secondhand experience of both the fear and the exhilaration of exploring the unknown.

Directed by Sebastián Cordero
Produced by Ben Browning

Written by Philip Gelatt

With: Daniel Wu, Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Dan Fogler

Cinematography: Enrique Chediak
Editing: Craig McKay, Alex Kopit, Livio Sanchez, and Aaron Yanes
Music: Bear McCreary

Runtime: 90 min
Release Date: 15 June 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color