This is the sixth in a series of 'Netflix streaming roulette' reviews. Austin horror examiner Michael Taylor reviews the first horror(ish) movie off 'Netflix' streaming that he's never seen before. Wish him luck.
But there's another riveting space flick that has gone under the radar; 'Europa Report.'
'Europa Report' is a found footage film, and it's one of the strongest in that sub-genre. Why? Because it's handheld free; all the cameras are fixed inside a spacecraft to observe a U.S. space mission to Jupiter's moon in search of signs of life.
The live transmission of the craft's images to Earth are disrupted and experts pore over the found footage to figure out where things went awry.
The movie is set up just like a Discovery channel documentary, as lots of talking heads discuss the storied mission and how things went horribly wrong.
That isn't a spoiler, it's merely the set-up.
The movie is directed by Sebastián Cordero who overcomes a very meager budget by use of a competent cast and tightly controlled shots and editing.
The movie is as steeped in science as it is in fiction, making whatever plot-holes do exist seem less catastrophic by the parts that do tickle the right mix of logic and protocol.
The small space crew are made up of likable, competent characters, devoid of the kind of wide spread hysteria that can hinder some sci-fi films credibility. Standout performances include Michael Nyqvuist ('Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'), Sharlto Copley ('District 9') and Anamaria Marinca, each of whom bring moments of pathos that are often missing in films of this genre.
Upon landing on Europa, Nyqvist's character believes he saw something out of the ship window. But his weary mental state leads his crew to question his coherence. It's their investigation into his claims that set the plot and suspense into high gear.
Given the film's small budget, one could expect some subpar effects; but at times the visuals can be quite striking when depicting Europa's landscape.
Like 'Gravity', 'Alien', '2001', and 'Sunshine', the overarching theme of the movie is that the very vastness and mysteriousness of space is equally enthralling and terrifying, and the movie gets that mix of awe and dread into a perfect distillation.
And its lack of shaky cams and annoying characters make it the first found footage film where you aren't distracted by the gimmicky medium. It feels seamless and organic in its narrative, and is as haunting as it is thought provoking, and that's the epitome of what great science fiction is meant to do.
'Europa Report' is rated PG-13 and runs 97 minutes.