Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Europa Report - Movie Review

In the very near future, there will be privately funded space exploration. Europa Report, which features Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Daniel Wu, and Anamaria Marinca, gives us a first hand look at what one of these missions might look like although we may not be too happy with the results. Sebasti├ín Cordero brings to life a screenplay written by Philip Gelatt using a new twist on the found footage technique.

Europa Ventures is a private firm that has been put together to send manned missions into space and the company's first task is to get a crew to Jupiter and, more specifically, the moon of Europa. Scientific research has shown a fair probability of life existing on this suddenly significant orb due to the high amount of ice on its surface and what is hoped to be oceans of water underneath.

Over the course of the movie, we get to know the mission crew including pilots, scientists, and engineers who have all been pulled from the best available options from around the world. Excitement is high and a sense of unified purpose has the world on the edge of its seat and the global audience is rewarded with unprecedented access into the day to day duties the crew is tasked with carrying out. After mission control loses contact with the crew, the worst is assumed until a batch of recorded footage from all of the spacecraft's extensive network of cameras brings to light exactly why the mission went awry.

Yes, this movie falls into the category of found footage films although, more than anything, it should be considered a very bold and deliberate leap into the world of science fiction. Its pretty obvious where the filmmakers drew inspiration from as there are bits and pieces of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Contact, and even Apollo 13 all mixed in just to name a few. I'm not bringing that up to say there are distinct comparisons as far as how the story plays out, its more how each of those films brought a sense of urgent reality to their stories rather than playing up the more operatic stylings of a Lucas or Abrams type movie.

The cast was very well chosen as each is very effective in their individual roles and they do a great job of creating a level of intimacy and familiarity with each other that one could only imagine a deep space crew like this might reach. Sharlto Copley is especially good, as he always is, as well as Nyqvist who is probably most well known for his portrayal as Mikael Blomkvist in the film adaptations of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy" of novels. Daniel Wu and Karolina Wydra also do a very good job in their roles as Captain William Xu and Science Officer, Dr. Katya Petrovna respectively.

Hardcore fans of science fiction are going to love watching this movie as it really is a fine piece of filmmaking within the genre. Casual viewers may find it a bit too slow for their liking although the methodical pacing is very intentional as it helps slowly build up the intensity to what is ultimately a pretty intense final act. While Europa Report attempts to give us a look into what our own future may hold for space travel, it also brings up some good questions about what might be waiting for use out there when we do get to that point and that is exactly what creators of good science fiction should be trying to achieve.

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