‘Europa Report’ Movie Review – Science-Heavy Fiction
We’ve had our fair share of science-fiction movies this year (and really every year if you think about it). Like I mentioned in my not-so-positive review of Stranded, space is the great unknown and is ripe for suspenseful stories. Since it is widely unknown, filmmakers don’t have to adhere to conventional thinking. But should they? Europa Report proves that a science-fiction movie can be grounded in science and realism, rather than relying on “blockbuster tricks” like time travel, monster-like aliens, and etc., and all the while be thoroughly suspenseful.
Presented in a found-footage format, Europa Report chronicles the doomed private space mission from Earth to Europa – one of Jupiter’s moons. Six astronauts make the trek across space, but of course it’s not without some major issues. When problems arise and they lose contact with Earth, they’re forced to land on Europa to both fix their problems and take a closer look at the moon.
Sebastián Cordero’s film doesn’t feel like your classic science fiction film. Science itself is a big part of the film (like it should be) and you can tell the filmmakers did their research beforehand. What you see on-screen looks and feels like one could expect, even if you’re not particularly knowledgable in space exploration. It’s sad that looking real goes against the norm of science-fiction films, but that’s unfortunately the case. This difference and departure from the norm is undoubtedly a good thing though.
Cordero does a masterful job ratcheting up the intensity and suspense with a combination of great scenes. He’s able to make the movie feel claustrophobic at times and overwhelmingly vast at other times. When stuck inside the space shuttle, it’s almost more terrifying than when the astronauts are forced to spacewalk outside or explore Europa’s surface. One easily comparable movie would be Duncan Jone’s Moon, although that’s admittedly better and more psychologically-thrilling than this one.
Cordero isn’t the only one that deserves credit for the intensity. Obviously, the lead actors, including bigger names like Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Sharlto Copley (District 9), embraced the challenge and came through. However, Bear McCreary (Sci-Fi’s Battlestar Gallactica) crafted a superb score that perfectly underscored each scene.
Europa Report has some of the “bests” of the year. There is a legitimate argument for both score of the year and scene of the year (which I can’t elaborate on because it’s spoilery). Most importantly, it makes an argument for best science-fiction movie of the year…even if it doesn’t feel like all the others. It’s more intimate, more intense, and all-together more thrilling. Most importantly, there’s a huge emphasis on the “science” part in the “science-fiction” tag that makes it seem way less gimmicky than the rest of the bunch.
Europa Report was previously released on Video On Demand services. You can still catch the movie there, or if you live in Los Angeles, New York City, or Washington, D.C., you can watch it in theaters. For full play dates (including future venues), click here.
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