The Anti-Blockbusters: Europa Report

By | July 12, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: This movie does a good job of merging the found-footage technique with a strong science fiction story.

This found-footage film came out in 2013 and did a very good job of adapting that filming style to a science fiction tale. The movie follows a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa which is believed to be the most likely place to find life in our solar system. A technical malfunction causes the astronauts to lose contact with Earth, but they decide to go forward with their mission. Once they arrive at the Moon, they face additional challenges, but they are not deterred because of the potential for the scientific revelations this moon may hold. The story is told through footage from the cameras onboard the ship and the astronauts’ suits. It is presented in a somewhat disjointed style, but it all comes together at the end.

The found-footage style has worked quite well for horror films,–obvious examples being The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity–but it has not been used too often for science fiction entries. Apart from 2008’s Monster and 2009’s Distict 9, I can’t remember any other science fiction films that have employed the found-footage technique (I’m counting movies like Cloverfield and Apollo 18 as sci fi / horror hybrids). But Europa Report is a straight science fiction film without any supernatural elements and only a slight bit of horror. Basically, imagine the Jupiter mission from 2001: A Space Odyssey as a found-footage film and without the trippy ending, and that is what you have here.

Europa Report can be a slow film, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It builds its story at a steady but never plodding pace and relies heavily on realistic science for its premise. Classic examples that it would compare to are 2001, Andromeda Strain, and Silent Running, and a more recent comparison would be 2009’s Moon. Europa Report stands up quite well in this company, though I don’t know that it quite achieves must-watch status. Still, it is an excellent science fiction film that treats its material with intelligence and does not employ the typical and hackneyed Hollywood hooks to keep its audience engaged.

The film was made on a budget of around $10 million and does a hell of a good job of stretching that to its limit. It never looks cheap and actually delivers some striking visuals at times. Films like these prove that the $100 to $200 million budgets of Hollywood Blockbusters are more bloat than brawn and that a good movie can be made with much less money. Europa Report also makes good use of its cast as it is very much an ensemble drama carried forward by solid performances from all involved. No one actor really stands out above the others, but each makes their mark.

My only gripe is that it probably could have been edited better. The story jumps around from present to past events (all caught on the cameras) and can be confusing at times. But as I mentioned above, it does come together quite well by the end, so consider this just a nitpick as Sebastian Cordero’s directing keeps the story moving along. Apart from that this is a solid science fiction entry that offers a good respite from the non-stop action and CGI-overload from the mega-budget films Hollywood regularly throws at us. It is a throwback of sorts to more somber filmmaking that adds in the more recently popular found-footage gimmick, but it combines these masterfully and delivers an engaging and well-made film.

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