Europa Report is proof that found footage films can make sense, feel real, and not be boring. Until now, Chronicle has come closest to allowing me to suspend disbelief, and even that strained credulity at times. Europa brings the conceit to a new level, taking advantage of the “always on” aspect of space travel with clever editing, dialogue, and plotting. It rarely feels forced or contrived.
What also sets this apart is that the story is simply presented to you. There are very few explanations or overly emotional struggles. Which isn’t to say there isn’t tension and emotional response, but the result is more evocative rather than provocative. Events occur; you are left to your own to respond to them. During a space mission, this is much more realistic. Unstable, weak people tend to be screened out of missions. While we’ve decades of movies of psychos in space, this film shows that strong individuals can provide just as much tension.
The cast brilliantly disappear into their roles. Almost all of them have had significant exposure, but with the exception of Nyqvist (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and Copley (Elysium), who are unmistakable but still deliver without distraction, most will not be immediately recognizable. But, in fact, they are proven talent: Camargo (Dexter), Davidtz (Amazing Spider-Man), Marinca (The Politician’s Husband), Fogler (Man Up), Whitlock (Veep), Wu (Tai Chi Hero). And, of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson makes an appearance as well.
Director Cordero (Cronicas) and writer Gelatt clearly have a simpatico in story telling and approach. If this is any indication of what they are each capable of, they are going to be worth following in future. The cinematography is also often wonderful, flipping between low-res and hi-res video to make you feel as if you are seeing more than you ever really do.
If it weren’t for Gravity, this would have been the most impressive science fiction film of the year for me. In truth, its science is better than Gravity, but from a purely entertainment perspective, Gravity was much more impressive; the film technology and experience were unbeaten and the science was close enough. However, if you want to see a very realistic, and yet still entertaining, view of space travel and the search for signs of extraterrestrial life, you cannot go wrong with this movie.