Europa One is the first mission to send humans into deep space. In "Europa Report," six astronauts are sent to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, to see if life exists beneath the icy exterior of the planetoid. Studies show that single-celled organisms may exist in a probable hidden ocean beneath the hefty layers of ice. As being alone in the depths of space begins to take its toll on each of the crew members, equipment on the spacecraft starts to malfunction including their means of communication back home. Tragedy rears its ugly head as the crew on the Europa One mission struggle between making one of the most important discoveries in the history of mankind and surviving long enough to actually make it back home.
One of the biggest mistakes "Europa Report" makes is that it lets you know very early on that nobody survives the trip to Europa. It would have been even more effective if you had just heard the testimony of Dr. Samantha Unger (Embeth Davidtz), CEO of Europa Ventures, without being told ahead of time the fate of the crew. The science fiction film is presented like a documentary containing footage from on-board cameras and interviews with the crew. As you become accustomed to the crew, you can't help but realize how realistic everything seems. The special effects do an excellent job making this shuttle and its outer space exhibition feel authentic. While "Europa Report" does deal with discovering new life, it never seems to overstep the bounds of reality as the decisions made and the related consequences feel logical.
Isolation sets in and the majority of the crew begins to feel its effects; James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley) gets the worst of it. Copley's performance is perhaps the most emotional in the film despite the South African actor having a limited amount of screen time. If anyone in "Europa Report" goes through a story arc similar to Dr. Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock) from "Gravity," it's James Corrigan. Just keep in mind that there's no rescuing this time around. The cast is fairly solid from all sides, but Michael Nyqvist also stands out. Nyqvist portrays Andrei, the chief engineer, and Andrei's experiences are a bit more extraordinary in comparison to the rest of the crew.
The first person perspective adds quite a bit to the film as does having a camera inside the suits of the crew as you get an intimate outlook that captures all of their facial expressions and emotions. It's a bit disappointing to see so many characters perish so similarly. However when you're surrounded by ice, there's really only one way you can go. The only real payoff is the last shot of the footage seen from Europa One. You'll know it once you see it. Anything Lovecraftian in design deserves some recognition. Coming back to the special effects, while they're mostly very good and add so much to the film they're also a bit funky once the crew arrives on Europa. It's excusable since it's something most humans will most likely never see, but the terrain of Europa is a bit off-balance in comparison to everything else in the film.
"Europa Report" is never really able to capitalize on the intense atmosphere that it hints at early on. While it does look and feel genuine at times and you're not ever able to shake that wondrous sensation of potential discovery, "Europa Report" fails to ever really wow its audience. The sci-fi film may share similarities with the number one film to hit theaters this past weekend, but "Europa Report" is no "Gravity."
Special features on the Blu-ray release include Exploring the Visual Effects of Europa Report (6:37), The Musical Journey of Europa Report (5:41), a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery, and the Theatrical Trailer.