Review: Europa Report (2013)

Do you find Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a religious experience? Are you a fan of Alien, and were disappointed by the visually-stunning but appalling prequel that was Prometheus?

Chances are you might find yourself watching this summer’s indie sci-fi hit, either in an art-house theater or on Amazon Instant Video.

Europa Report is the story of a private mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter with an icy surface that may contain liquid oceans, and perhaps life.

The narrativetakes on the And Then There Were None approach familiar to fans of horror movies, especially Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing.

You might not care that Europa Report is in the found-footage, fake documentary format. The narrative style is so prevalent that it might not shock you, but Europa Report executes it well.

The film ingeniously incorporates real-life footage of rockets with fictional press releases and interviews which make it seem like one of those 3D IMAX documentaries docents try to make you see at science museums.

Unfortunately, Europa Report’s narrative is jumbled to the point that it borders incoherence. Yes, we understand that it should start en medias res, then backtrack to explain, then continue, but Europa Report backtracks a little too much, rewinding just as the tension begins to tighten. To paraphrase Stephen King, a story starts when it begins, and it’s best to plow through the entire sequence of events without flashbacks.

Nevertheless, Europa Report succeeds in the low-budget sci-fi horror genre, bolstered by strong performances by low-profile actors, giving us the benefit of not assigning any prejudices on famous actors. You might recognize Michael Nyqvist, the male lead of the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and villain in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and Sharlto Copley, the lead of District 9 and one of Matt Damon’s adversaries in Elysium. There’s even a cameo by everyone’s favorite living physicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Will Europa Report blow your mind? Probably not, but at least it’s well done, considering its low budget. It’s superior to similar space mission films like Red Planet and Mission to Mars. We can only wonder what it would have been like with a budget like Prometheus. Let’s hope Europa Report’s creators keep making movies.

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