Europa Report opens today at Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. Shot documentary style, this science fiction thriller details the fictional account of a manned space exploration to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, in search for signs of alien life.
The film is the first English-language feature from director Sebastian Cordero. Despite being shot in a Brooklyn film studio, the picture maintains a visually captivating, yet realistic visual aesthetic throughout. The film successfully maintains a gradually increasing sense of tension throughout the duration, without sacrificing any of the story's scientific integrity.
The film's use of lighting and color on the exterior of Europa is especially engrossing, especially given the fact that it was shot in a studio in a relatively short amount of time. Lighting has profound significance to the film's plot as well, which is gradually made apparent to both the characters and the audience. It's a subtle spectacle, but definitely worth the trip.
While it never reaches Alien levels of horror, Europa Report definitely has its share of dark and unsettling moments. There's comic relief too, with little gags such as a brief music tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a garlic dish, and a missing toothbrush. The film mostly sticks to claustrophobic deep space drama and tense character interaction.
That brings us to the acting, which is very convincing especially given the film's aim towards realism. The emotional impact of the story relies largely on nuance, rather than script, as the ship's crew gradually turns from excitement, to uncertainty, to dread. When it becomes apparent that the crew's survival is at stake, there is a dramatic shift in tone which never becomes cheesy or contrived. The characters are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to uncover the truth.
Yes, the crew does ultimately find something under the ice of Europa, because, let's face it, it wouldn't be much of a film if they hadn't. The culprit of the film's mystery is finally revealed at a crucial point in the film, with one particularly revealing shot that will satisfy some and disappoint others. Sometimes it's better to leave parts of the mystery up to the audience's imagination, and the film reaches a delicate balance of doing so without falling short of an actual conclusion.
Rather than critiquing an aspect of modern society, as many science fiction films often attempt in their subtexts, the film raises very genuine questions about space exploration and our place in our solar system.
While die hard horror fanatics might leave less than thrilled, Europa Report is a must-see for anyone interested in space, science, or stylish drama.